The Politics of the Cup

COMMUNION_OF_THE_APOSTLESFlyer small“I don’t know about the Church thing.”

This is a quote from a recent conversation – wonderfully post-modern and summing up the tragedy of modern Christianity. The great failure of Protestant theology (in all forms), despite its wide-ranging thought on the nature of God and human salvation, has been “the Church thing.” The careful parsing of every verse of Scripture pertaining to justification is met with generalities and vagaries when the Scripture speaks of the Church – and particularly when the Scripture speaks of the “One Church.” Modern extremes have sought to push a version of churchless Christianity into the earliest century (cf. Bart Ehrman), only the latest attempt to re-write Christian history in a manner that justifies modern Christian dissonance.

Orthodox Christianity (and Roman Catholicism to a large extent) has resisted this jettisoning or reconfiguring of Church. The result is an abiding scandal within the Christian world – the Orthodox act and speak as though there were no other Church.

I have written on this topic from time to time – and the discussion that follows is always fraught with the tension it creates. Perhaps no topic within Christianity generates more difficulty than the Church. I take this difficulty to be a hallmark of the accuracy of Orthodox thought in the matter. It is salt in a theological wound. The following thoughts will doubtless offer more salt – but the wound is real and cannot be imagined (re-imagined) away.

The early Church struggled for several centuries to rightly confess the God/Manhood of Christ. Expressing the reality of the Incarnation pushed the boundaries of language and gave to the world such words and concepts as “Person.” The failures of the same period also gave the world the most long-lasting schism in Christian history: the division between Oriental and Eastern Orthodoxy. In the modern period, the doctrine of the Church, or rather its absence and distortion, has given rise to a landscape populated with “churches” whose very multiplicity is an icon of human brokenness.

In the Nicene Creed we confess “One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.” It is an article of faith no less important than any other phrase within the Creed. That the modern, visible expression of the Church so utterly contradicts this article of the Creed should be a matter of collective shame for Christians. However, the modern solution has been to hide from the shame by changing the meaning of the Creed or simply ignoring it.

A profound example of modern shamelessness is the assault on Eucharistic integrity. St. Irenaeus said, “Our teaching agrees with the Eucharist and the Eucharist confirms our teaching.” From the earliest days, the Church and the Eucharist have been seen as one and the same. We do not think the Church – we eat and drink the Church. This is often described as a eucharistic ecclesiology. In Orthodoxy, this is a redundant phrase, for the Eucharist is the Church and the Church is the Eucharist.

But just as modern Christians “do not get the Church,” so they “do not get the Eucharist.” An individualized, democratic culture sees the Eucharist as an entitlement and the refusal of eucharistic “hospitality” to be an insult to Christian unity. The refusal of eucharistic “hospitality” is not an insult to unity – it is rather the careful and accurate expression the boundary of the Church. The scandal lies within the modern refusal to embrace the unity of the faith. The heedless “eucharistic hospitality” practiced by the denominations is simply an extension of their refusal to take the Church as a serious matter of the faith. Eucharistic hospitality is easy (and cheap) when unity itself has been emptied of meaning. The critique of Orthodox integrity with regard to the Eucharist is nothing less than an assault on the Eucharist itself.

Stanley Hauerwas of Duke University is often described as a “political theologian.” This does not mean that his thought serves the civil definition of politics. Rather, his thought insists that what we do and how we visibly express our lives, the “politics” of our existence, is the most essential expression of theology. St. Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “You are my epistle, written on the fleshy tables of the heart.” The Church is what theology looks like. I studied with Hauerwas in the late 80’s and early 90’s. When I left the doctoral program to return to parish ministry, I told him that I was leaving the program “in order to do theology.” He understood and had no argument.

Many Christians fail to see the “politics” of their faith. They think one thing and do another (it is another aspect of the “two-storey universe”). Almost nothing is as eloquent an expression of the Church’s life than the “politics of the Cup.” What we do with the Eucharist and how that action displays the inner reality of our life is a deeply “political” expression (in the sense that Hauerwas uses the word).

The one common thread throughout the Protestant Reformation was its opposition to the Church of Rome. Lutheran, Calvinist and Anglican Reforms were all embraced by various rising nation states, not so much for the appeal of the particularities of their teaching, but for their willingness to provide cover for the subjugation of the Church to the political demands of secular rulers.

Those demands are far less transparent in the modern period. The legitimacy of the state is today rooted in democratic theories. Those same theories are legitimized by the individualism of popular theology. Eucharistic hospitality is the sacramental expression of individualism. The Open Cup represents the individual’s relationship with Christ without regard for the Church. It is the unwitting sacrament of the anti-Church.

In the last few decades, the same individualism has taken on great immediacy within a consumerist economy. At the same time, we have seen the rise of arguments for a radically individualized reception of communion, one that no longer insists on Baptism. Only the secret intention of the recipient is required. The Eucharist becomes inert – reduced to the status of an object to be chosen or rejected according to the desire of the individual. It is a consumer’s communion with himself.

Those who separate the Eucharist from the Church also separate themselves from the Church – they seek to eat while “not discerning the body.” The treatment of the Eucharist clearly reflects the treatment of the Church.

The scandal of Orthodox Communion in the modern world is its identification with the Church itself. The Church as Eucharist cannot be consumed as just one more option in an individual’s privileged life. The refusal of eucharistic “hospitality” is, in fact, an act of true hospitality. It is an act that says:

You have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are registered in heaven, to God the Judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect, to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling that speaks better things than that of Abel.

Having come to such a place we “remove our shoes.” Every consumerist demand must fall silent. The individual must yield to the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, the “assembly of the firstborn who are registered in heaven.” It rightly shatters the imaginings of modern man and his constant attempt to reinvent what he himself could never make. For the Eucharist is the Church.


  1. Fr Stephen, what a wonderfully thought provoking piece!
    If, as you claim, the Eucharist is the Church, I’m not sure what you mean by Eucharist.
    When I participate in the Eucharist, I am powerfully aware that I am at Jesus’ table, and I am equally aware that Jesus’ hospitality is broader and deeper than anything I can possibly imagine – or lay claim to defining, replicating or replacing.
    Jesus’ presence at this table is so potent that it reduces all living things to silence. Not just humans, not just Orthodox church goers – ALL living things. I have seen this again and again. So I’m confused. Is your post a theology of the Eucharist or your lived experience?
    And no, I’m not a member of the Orthodox Church.

  2. Lyndal,
    traditionally, the answer to your question has been the following passage from Exodus, understood as a description of partaking in the Eucharist. Even Orthodox cannot partake unless they have some of these (allegorised here) preconditions:

    Have them wash their clothes and be ready by the third day, because on that day the Lord will come down on Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people. Put limits for the people around the mountain and tell them, ‘Be careful that you do not approach the mountain or touch the foot of it….
    So Moses went up and the Lord said to him, “Go down and warn the people so they do not force their way through to see the Lord and many of them perish. Even the priests, who approach the Lord, must consecrate themselves, or the Lord will break out against them.”
    Moses said to the Lord, “The people cannot come up Mount Sinai, because you yourself warned us, ‘Put limits around the mountain and set it apart as holy.’”
    The Lord replied, “Go down and bring Aaron up with you. But the priests and the people must not force their way through to come up to the Lord, or he will break out against them.”

  3. Os Guiness used to say ‘Death by a thousand qualifications’. When it comes to mystery …, I’m one for the non wordy , let the mystery ‘speak’, sometimes amongst the ecclesial vs non ecclesial discussions , one sees a deconstruction instead of an invitation to mystery …, ‘let it be’ I say

  4. A person who receives communion from a church but refuses to be a member is a little like a person who has a friend with benefits who he refuses to marry

  5. I think that in the case of eucharistic hospitality, talk of mystery and what we “experience” is an attempt to avoid the scandal of our own shame. As I suggested in the beginning of the article, whenever I write about the Church and its boundaries, the protests begin. The Eucharist without boundaries is no true Eucharist, just as sex without marriage is a false union (and for pretty much the same reason). Modern Christians have become spiritual adulterers and do not want to be called out. The collapse of Eucharistic discipline and the right understanding of the sacrament (even Protestants practiced closed communion up until the 1950’s) are deeply connected to the collapse of marriage and the confusion there as well. Consumerist individualism is their shared culprit.

    Be awed, O man, when you see the deifying Blood! It is a fire which burns the unworthy! The Divine Body both deifies and nourishes me. It deifies the spirit and wondrously nourishes the mind.

  6. I am a monarchist. The King I am subject to is Christ and His Kingdom is not of this world, though It is in the world.

  7. This makes me think.

    I once read that the embrace of kissing developed in humans as an extension of the feeding act, something we still see in some animals. If this is true, one can say that–in a sense–in being fed from the chalice, from the burning coal on the tongs, we are also recieving on our lips a holy kiss of divine proportions, in that it encompasses a loving kiss by Christ as our caregiver, but simultaneously by all of our brethren across time and space. Few people would be willing to share that kiss in a physical way, it seems. But through the gift of the Eucharist, we unite this way at every Liturgy, confirming our relationship with the Master of all, yes, but also with the fullness of the Church catholic. Such a passionate embrace among mere men and women can only come from a true union of faith, it would seem. Otherwise, it is perhaps an embrace of scandal.

    If I am greatly astray, please correct me…

  8. Individual rights. Sounds benign, even healthy doesn’t it. I mean, who could argue?

    “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal and they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”

    The interpretation, driven largely by enlightenment anti-clericalism; humanist/deist philosophy and secular utopianism is that “God gave these to me, no one can limit them or take them away. I have a right to …. ” (fill in the blank with any vain imagination, passion, depravity and sinful excess of which the human soul is capable).

    It even extends to the ultimate blasphemy that “God is mine, if I want Him I’ll have Him and YOU can’t tell me not to.”

    Those who would argue against what the Church has always taught and the rather mild restatement of it by Fr. Stephen are partaking of the ravening mind of Prince of Darkness and the destruction he wishes upon us–inadvertently to be sure and without malice but still partaking.

    My heart is harder than granite and I am an incorrigible sinner, maimed by my own desire, willfulness and disobedience, yet for some reason, the Church (Jesus Christ) condescended to receive me into the His Body despite the many heresies with which I was infected. If He received me, He will receive anyone who comes to Him and to His Church with humility. But a body without discrete limits is just a mass of protoplasm devoid of life.

    In fact, people construct their own limits all the time and as is their “right” object to the limits others construct. The limits the Orthodox Church practices and teaches we did not construct out of our own will. They are part of the Apostolic deposit of faith.

    Shoot, even building framers have a codified method of framing that is adhered to because if it is not, buildings fall down and people die. It is no different when it comes to the Church.

    If you don’t agree, that’s your “right” but don’t argue with what we have practiced since Apostolic times and will continue to practice, by God’s grace, until He returns.

    Go your own way, and may the mercy of our Lord be with you always.

    If you want to really enter into the mystery of communion and be united with Jesus Christ, come, repent, submit to His love and enter into His joy. All are welcome, especially the maimed the halt and the lame, but only when wearing the wedding garment of repentance, baptism and Chrismation.

    Ask questions in the spirit of Mary when she inquired of Gabriel, “How can this be…” not of the spirit of Zachariah that caused him to be struck dumb.

    To do so is the wisdom of the wise virgins. Not to do so, partakes of the foolishness of the others. May God protect us from such foolishness.

  9. There is a “seamless” quality to the life and teaching of the Church. I have written about this aspect of Orthodoxy in the past. The most comprehensive word expression in this regard is union or communion with God. Union with God is life. The severing of communion with God (sin) is death. Salvation is the restoration of communion with God. Theosis is the fullness of communion with God. All of the sacraments are about union with God. Baptism initiates and heals that union. The Eucharist is a communion in the life of God (“unless you eat my flesh and drink my blood, you have no life in you”). Prayer is communion with God. Worship is union with God. It is all one thing. That one thing is the mystery and its is truly wonderful.

    However, much of Christian thought, particularly outside of Orthodoxy, is fragmented and no longer has this seamless quality. The lack of seamlessness is itself a symptom of bad theology. When the Eucharist is removed from this seamless place within the Christian life, and becomes itself an object within our “devotional life” rather than the visible union with the Father through the Son by the Spirit in the Church – then all that is nurtured is our inner fragmentation. Consumerist individualism is the fragmentation of human life and community.

    I understand, and even apologize, that topics such as Eucharistic discipline (the “politics of the Cup”) is disturbing. I do not mean this as a diatribe or an effort to merely be critical. I mean this as an application of Orthodox teaching that reveals an aspect of our existence that our culture easily hides from us. The fragmentation of the Church and the compartmentalization of its life, teaching and expression are not discrete moments for argumentation. They are themselves signs of brokenness.

    Thus, I also write not infrequently opposing theories such as the penal substitution model of the atonement as another deviation from the seamless life and teaching of the faith. It is an “epicycle” within theology – an ad hoc explanation of the Cross that is sui generis, isolated from the main body of the Church. This fragmentation of Christian teaching creates a Christianity that suffers from a multiple personality disorder. Atonement is one thing. Eucharist is another. Baptism something else. Ordination yet another. Justification is this and sanctification is that. And all of this is bad theology. Reality as God gives it – is one thing.

    If I were using the metaphor of physics, I would say that such aberrations in theology lack a “unified field theory.” They don’t actually make sense – or not a common sense. They make multiple senses, and that is nonsense.

    But the Scriptures and the faith as professed within Orthodoxy in fact teach one thing. That one thing is communion with God. It is marvelous and of such richness that being understood as “one thing” does not reduce it. It reveals its depth.

  10. I struggled with this for several months and hesitated to join the Orthodox Church for a while because of the closed communion cup. But then, in addition to reading the early fathers, I came across the Baptist Encyclopedia’s published in the 1800’s.

    In the second volume of the Baptist Encyclopedia there are statements of faith, mostly written in the 1700’s. These were essentially creeds written in conjunction with most of the ministers in a given region.

    In the New Hampshire Declaration of Faith, we find the following: “[baptism] is prerequisite to the privileges of a church relation; and to the Lord’s Supper, in which the member of the church by the sacred use of bread and wine, are to commemorate together the dying love of Christ.”

    In the Philadelphia Confession of Faith (adopted by the Baptist Association on Sept 25, 1742), we find a list regarding the purposes of Lord’s Supper in section XXXII. It includes, “confirmation of the faith of believers in all of the benefits thereof.” And it later states in part 8 of section XXXII, “All ignorant and ungodly persons, as they are unfit to enjoy communion with Christ, so are they unworthy of the Lord’s table and cannot…partake of these holy mysteries, or be admitted thereunto.”

    Also, there’s St Justin Martyr’s First Apology (written around 150AD). In chapter LXVI, he explains the requirements for communion saying,

    “And this food is called among us the Eucharist, of which no one is allowed to partake but the person who believes that the things which we teach are true, and who has been washed with the washing that is for the remission of sins…and who is so living as Christ has enjoined.”

    Before the 20th century, baptism was a sign that one accepted the teachings of a church. It was also a strict prerequisite to partaking in the Lord’s Supper. Communion was not a right one could demand, but rather a privilege of church membership.

    I had grown weary of the perpetual reformations in the Protestant church and realized that my demand for an open cup was only continuing a new and alien thought in the life of the church, one that would have been repugnant even to early American Christians.

  11. George, a monarch as an expression of the oneness of the country under God has possibilities, but how do you arrive at that oneness without Christ?

  12. Michael Bauman said:

    “Ask questions in the spirit of Mary when she inquired of Gabriel, “How can this be…” not of the spirit of Zechariah that caused him to be struck dumb.”

    Absolutely. Well said.

  13. My post above presupposed boundaries, ‘let the mystery stand ‘, meant to affirm the uniqueness of Orthodoxy and Catholics when it comes to Eucharist , but to a non ecclesial Christian , it can’t connect until it’s a reality in that person

  14. Father,

    I much appreciated your comment at 10:16am.

    We are born as fallen human beings, and even after our baptism, we retain varying degrees of memory of our own fallenness. Part of our transfigured walk involves conscious recapitulation of human nature into Christ’s.

    The “must” if you will, of the walk that starts somewhere along the road to Emmaus.

    Scientists do tell us that we are genetically wired for the defense of territory and we have designed robots, algorithms and computer simulations that can handle such situations far better than the most brilliant human mind.

    Human nature mitigates against switching horses midstream. Yet that is precisely what St. Paul did on the road to Damascus.

    I think too of the words of Met Kallistos:

    “What holds the Church together is not exterior power of jurisdiction. Unity is created from within by sharing together in the Holy Communion.”

    Every year sees the development of new specialised fields in the sciences. We have functional, behavioral and even dialectical biology. So why not a Eucharistic pneumatology, defined by the divine energies present at Pascha?

    The distinction between uncreated energy that is the source of causal power in the universe and the created energy that has “as if” teleological properties is not a matter of semantics.

    It is rather, how divine unity is “formed”.

  15. Dino, thank you for your comment in response to my query. It was very helpful. Fr Stephen mentioned in his post the taking off of shoes, which I took as a reference to the story of Moses and the burning bush – another wonderful passage reminding us of the need for boundaries in our relationship with God.
    I would be interested in anything you might have to say about the dynamic tension between the need for boundaries and the injunction to ‘seek His face’ (Ps 105). Or do you see this as already answered in the Eucharist, in respect of ‘presence’?

  16. The question of the tension between
    1) the “need for boundaries and
    2) the injunction to ‘seek His face’ (Ps 105)”
    is, perhaps, better articulated as a question between
    1) the desire to ‘see’ God (an inherent yet always precarious desire that our adversary has always exploited extremely successfully) and
    2) the placing of our selves under His gaze at all times (a favourite notion of the Psalmist).
    This second notion (a key to Orthodox Hesychastic practice) is an authentic treasure of humility, love and discernment containing within it key virtues such as the acceptance of what befalls, the fiery zeal to give rather than receive (including from God), the martyr’s burning desire of martyrdom that guarantees communion with Christ far more than a seeker’s quest to ‘see’ Him.

    I am reminded of St Mary the Egyptian who hadn’t partaken of the Eucharist (or seen another human) for almost four decades in the desert of the Jordan – although she had encountered God in the Uncreated Light numerous times during that time. In her humble repentance she wanted nothing other than to ‘offer herself’ and she encountered another human and was granted the Eucharist only before her blessed repose. It is truly amazing that the way things happened, even she adhered to the ‘Orthodox boundaries’ and did not partake until she had confessed, even though she had passed the stages of purification, illumination and had clearly reached the highest heights of glorification/theosis well before…

  17. No Eucharist to non-believers of Christ or those excommunicated I have no problem with. The problem I have come across is not allowing other Christians to partake of the Eucharist because of some legalistic reason i.e. a ROCOR Priest denied me the Eucharist because ROCOR was not in communion with the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, he insisted that I be baptized again, yet my baptism was valid. I perceived that the reasons behind this was more political than spiritual. The funny thing is that I know that the Roman Catholics will allow me to partake of the Eucharist, it is a part of their cannons. Should the Eucharist be denied to those who share the same belief in Christ and have the same understanding of the Eucharist and have been baptized properly???

  18. Dear Orthodox Brothers:

    I agree that communion should be closed to unbelievers and protestants. I lament the fact that there is no full communion between the Catholic and Orthodox and the Ancient Oriental Orthodox Churches. Having studied the thoroughly the reasons for the the Separation between our Churches,I find it just a matter of pride on all sides involved for our separation and also reunification. Surely such Holy People in our Churches should be allowed to speak, and heal our divisions.

  19. jrj,

    I cannot offer an authoritative answer to your question but I can say how I understand the problem:

    While we desire a unity that would let us partake of the Eucharist everywhere Christ’s body meets, it is always the highest privilege, not a right. The severe burden priests bear to guard the cup should be met with respect and fear for their souls. Pray for them. Their motives may not always be perfect but they have a duty we don’t.

    As for me, I have no right to anything and should take my dismissal as an opportunity to stand with the children of Israel at the foot of Sinai and repent (wash my clothes) with joy to be that near the holy presence of God.

  20. I agree and respect that a Priest must obey, yet I do not claim privilege or right, yet for me the Eucharist is a necessity to my spiritual healing, as important to me as prayer, psalmody, confession, as breathing. Should those that are in need be denied because of ethnic, political or jurisdictional differences? I am not talking of the schismatics, I am talking of those of that hold to the true faith.

  21. jrj1701,
    It’s hard to comment on a situation without details. When you say Ukrainian Orthodox – it is problematic. There are several groups, not all of which are in communion with the rest of the Orthodox. ROCOR takes a uniquely strict approach to anything outside of the communion of Orthodoxy, rebaptizing even Roman Catholics. It is an anomalous situation that creates certain problems, and is indeed a unique pastoral problem that would not happen in other jurisdictions of Orthodoxy. Such situations are presently being discussed within Orthodoxy but have not been solved as of yet.

    Some Ukrainian Catholics (the Unia), describe themselves as Orthodox, but are not considered Orthodox by the Orthodox. They are considered Roman Catholics because they are in communion with Rome. Most jurisdictions would probably receive you into the communion of Orthodoxy simply by confession – again a pastoral matter ultimately decided by a bishop or the Synod of bishops.

    I would have to know more particulars of your situation to be able to make sense of it.

  22. DEaconJoseph, how could there be communion between the Churches so long as there is separation? How can there be reunification with Rome when there are significant theological differences, not the least of which being the demand that the universal jurisdiction of the papacy and its infallibility be accepted. If you do not understand how the Orthodox think of these things and why it is such a problem, then you have no reason to make such judgments. To suggest that it is a matter of pride is nonsense. It is a matter of the faith and has long been such. To refuse to understand why the Orthodox say this, but instead to accuse them of pride, is just the kind of misunderstanding that makes unity impossible. You have to take people seriously and believe what they are saying. I would not want to have the present unity of the Roman Church – for it is a very poor unity – frequently at deep divide with itself. On the other hand, I would find myself quite close with a number of Catholics, but see that they themselves are often in very difficult circumstances within their own Church. I think you are engaging in a very superficial analysis of a matter that requires greater depth. If you’re not Orthodox (which I think is likely), then I would suggest that you engage in conversation on a serious level – and listen a lot.

  23. Father Bless,
    I respect that you would need more detail to accurately address my personal situation and if you are interested in furthering this discussion on a personal level, please contact me, there are other details that I can relate to you. The reason I presented this on this thread is to present a case where those that follow the true faith are running into divisions and are being punished for what I perceive as not theological issues, but political issues. I converted from a protestant sect that believed firmly in closed communion, and the partaking of the Eucharist improperly in my belief can have dire repercussions (1 Cor.11:29) yet I believe the Eucharist is very necessary for salvation and believe that Church needs to work towards unity to be able to help those that hold to the true faith, and there are some issues that block unity that are really legalistic shenanigans, and hair splitting that Christ warned us against and because the problems have grown overtime it has at times become a matter of institutional pride, yet that is not the over all situation. Unity is a very complex issue that many won’t even bother to deal with because of the complexity. It is like a mine field.

  24. jrj,
    I will send a private note. However, Orthodox institutional unity, as well as a number of other problems, is slowly being addressed through the Episcopal Assemblies. I think the process will be slow and at times torturous. Unity is a spiritual reality and thus something that must always be struggled for (it does not come naturally). There are forms of unity that fall far short of the truth and they are easy and quick but the true substance is missing and thus our salvation is neglected. Sometimes the sins of others have a deep impact on our own personal situations. These are things that we have to approach with “patient endurance” in the words of the Apostle. Such endurance can, at times, be a miserable thing, but our suffering is seen by God and He makes it His own and our suffering is slowly transformed into the Cross itself and shares in the salvation of the world. I know of no other way forward at any time.

  25. Not in any way addressing jrj’s situation but most of the clamor for unity that I have seen both inside and outside the Church has had to do with human will: either from the desire to “be right” or the desire to avoid conflict for the sake of “peace”

    The only real unity is experienced in love which if we believe our Lord we can have even with our enemies.

    “Sometimes the sins of others have a deep impact on our own personal situations”

    I would be tempted to eliminate the word ‘sometimes’.

    It was from the Cross that our Lord forgave: “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

  26. I echo the same sentiments. We mustn’t forget that unity is only to be found in the one true Vine.
    Please pardon my apparent overconfidence when stating that the one true Vine –Christ- is His Body, which is the Orthodox Church.
    An ‘institutional’ (enforced-political) joining together of various ‘branches’ (as if they were all ‘equals’ to the Orthodox) will only result in a beastly Chimera. Institutional unity is an absolute delusion.
    The return and re-grafting unto the Orthodox Church of all brothers and sisters is the only route to unity. This is not just a personal opinion of a cradle Orthodox, but the words of many ex-Catholics, or ex-Protestants that have followed this same route. In fact, they are often far more resolute than this…

  27. Mr Nugent nailed it. The Orthodox are just about the only ones with closed communion for the same reason we have a 2000 year old tradition of closed marriage. Suggesting the one to most other church members makes no more sense than the other, so it seems pretty foreign. They won’t even notice they’re being excluded for a religious reason because an issue like fidelity doesn’t even arise in places like Anglicanism or the other modern protestant churches.

  28. Dino says:

    “The return and re-grafting unto the Orthodox Church of all brothers and sisters is the only route to unity.”

    Q. Yes, but what should this unity look like?

    A. We need to see this is terms of a unity of persons all of whom are “unique” and “unrepeatable”. This is achieved through “prayer (which) is personal”, so that “each person becomes a sacrament of the divine presence, a means of communion with God.” (Kallistos Ware, 2012).

    Pure prayer of the heart (i.e. “with eyes closed”) frees the nous from eschatological tension that arises a historicised Incarnation (e.g. the Helleno-Romaic dilemma). “Be a hesychast not a phantast”. (Kallistos Ware, 2012).

    Ultimately, this divine unity bears the signs of the Holy Trinity of persons i.e. it is Paschal.

  29. Dino,

    An interesting quotations for you from Bingaman et al’s The Philokalia — Classic Text of Orthodox Spirituality.

    The Kollyvades [traditionalists] were concerned however not merely with the correct day for mnimosyna [memorial service for the departed] but with other questions of more obvious importance. In particular they advocated frequent communion –“continual communion,” as they termed it–by which they meant the daily reception of the sacrament, if at all possible. This was a highly unusual standpoint in the Orthodox Church at the time. Almost everywhere in Eastern Christendom communion had become infrequent: laypersons usually communicated three or four times a year and in many cases only at Pascha while most nonordained monks on Athos received the sacrament no more than once in every forty days. The advocacy of frequent communication by the Kollyvades proved highly controversial, bringing them obloquy and persecution and many of them fled or were expelled from Athos. (p.17)

    The co-editors of the Philokalia itself even went so far so as to hide the fact that key inspirational texts that provided insight into the hidden world of the spirit were in fact written by Roman Catholics (“Combattimento Spirituale by Lorenzo Scupoli (c. 1530 – 1610) and “Spiritual Exercises” by St Ignatius Loyola).

    There are some real historical wounds here which need to be addressed — in the Holy Spirit. The Normans (William of Normandy, Tancred of Hauteville and his twelve sons) in the wake of the 1054 schism hastened the end of Orthodoxy in England and in Southern Europe (particularly in Sicily which was still very much under the influence of Byzantium at this time). William crossed the channel in 1066, having learnt valuable lessons from his kinsman Count Roger, who crossed the Messina Straits in 1060.

    The challenge to Orthodoxy in Greece did not start until much later, that is, after the collapse of Constantinople in 1453 and it was not until the Western Enlightenment came into its own (Voltaire et al.) that secularism began to gain serious ground in the mind and life of educated Greeks.

    Divine silence (in the context of hesychasm) is vitally important because it returns the soul to its Edenic state; the banging of the drums of war create generational memories that work against the Holy Spirit’s healing in the soul.

  30. Andrew,
    thanks, I always find myself in fervent agreement with many of the quotes you bring, especially (the entirety of) the Philokalia, but even Fr J Romanides you quoted at another time

  31. Andrew, everybody agrees with “unity” but as you ask: “What would it look like?”

    The mess we have on our hands leads me to believe real unity (a Pentecostal experience more than Paschal IMO) will only happen when the persecution is severe enough or Jesus come again.

    That being said I try to practice a hospitality that welcomes everyone but at the same time recognizing the that the Church is not divided just some are split off from it while others are apostate.

    That includes some ostensibly in her fold.

  32. Dino,

    Thanks for your earlier pointers to the all powerful Cross.

    From St. Mark the Ascetic:

    Saying #2 “…sonship is a gift bestowed on human beings by means of his own blood.”


    Saying #24 “Christ through the cross gives sonship as a gift.”

    We live in extraordinary times!

  33. Michael,
    great clarification. it makes me think… it is Pentecost that comes first, and the Cross/Pasha (for each disciple) that comes second (unlike the order we initially see in the New Testament).
    I am speculating that persecution would likely push towards a (still somewhat superficial) initial unity, and the Spirit might then complete the Pentecostal grafting onto the one true Vine for those souls ready and willing to return to Orthodoxy in earnest. The next stage would normally be further, far greater persecution though – the Cross and Pasha.
    However, it is probably more likely that the subtle, corrosive ‘persecution’ that we see around us, (which does not wake such strong defence mechanisms) will continue to be used more and more – which is why we need all the more fervent Nepsis/spiritual vigilance of mind in heart.

  34. I’m a devout small “o” orthodox Catholic Christian. Most of the contributors here seem to be devout capital “O” Orthodox catholic Christians. We obviously put different emphasis on certain aspects of our worship practice. But from my perch out here in the middle right hand pews, I don’t think our Dear Savior wants to deny Himself to any of us who are sincerely trying to please him and seek his forgiveness for our short comings. Shouldn’t we try to be as accepting, loving and understanding of each other as He is of us? We know that the One True Vine has several branches with legitimate, carefully preserved and qualified Holy Orders, Baptism, and Holy Eucharist Sacraments. Speaking as one insignificant Catholic worshipper, its disappointing and confusing to me that the successors of the Apostles of Christ can’t seem to collectively do a more unified job of leading us. If we truly believe that our Catholic, Orthodox and Ancient Oriental priests are able to legitimately consecrate the bread and wine, it is scandalous that we refrain from offering the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Our Lord to each other. It’s not just a matter of hospitality, its a demonstration of Truth. Not offering The Lord to our properly disposed brothers and sisters in Christ denies the very essence of His mandate. I say get with it you apostolic leaders of hierarchies — what’s taking so long??

  35. Rick, God blesses all those who long for the truth and draws them to Himself lifted up as Moses prophesized in the wilderness.

    Here is the thing though. The vine is Jesus Christ, not any institutions. He established one Church through the Apostles and the gift of the Holy Spirit.

    Officially, we Orthodox and Roman Catholics are schismatics to each other and therefore not really part of the same vine. The Protestants are …. well protest-ants.

    The question becomes where can the Apostolic faith be most clearly seen, experience and lived. That is, where does our Lord most clearly and consistently reveal Himself.

    Once one makes that determination based on prayer and leading, it makes no sense to me to fall prey to the heretical notion of egalitarianism.

    I will always rejoice in those who love God, no matter where I encounter them, but that love can only be perfected and fulfilled in the Orthodox Church, realizing that I am without doubt the least of these and many non-Orthodox are likely to enter into His joy ahead of me for He knows His friends.

  36. Rick,
    I appreciate your kindness and generosity but things are not quite as they appear in the middle right hand pews. We do share many things in common, but not everything, and some of those things are actually essential. Thus it is that Roman Catholic and Orthodox Christians are not in communion with each other. Perhaps the demand that the Orthodox accept the universal jurisdiction of the Pope, or any number of Catholic doctrines that are not part of the Apostolic deposit of the faith does not seem significant to you – but it does to us. I long for unity, but only unity in the truth. And it is the truth that is a scandal in this case. If there were full communion as you suggest, then you would go your way thinking everything is fine. But it’s not fine. In some cases it’s extremely not fine, but I’ll not belabor the point.

  37. Dino, All:

    Fr. Georges Florovsky’s definition of (divine) unity in Limits of the Church places the burden of communion on the consubstantial Trinity. This is in complete accord with the belief of the ancient Church. Canonical (or other) boundaries are synonymous with mankind’s departure from Eden (cf. Gen 3:24):

    “For the Church is unity, and the whole of her being is in this unity and union, of Christ and in Christ. ‘For in one Spirit were we all baptized into one body’ (1 Cor. 12.13), and the prototype of this unity is the consubstantial Trinity. The measure of this unity is catholicity or communality (sobornost), where the impenetrability of personal consciousness is softened – and even removed – in complete unity of thought and soul, and the multitude of them that believe are of one heart and soul (cf. Acts 4.32). A sect, on the other hand, is separation, solitariness, the loss and denial of communality. The sectarian spirit is the direct opposite of the Church spirit.”

    To some degree, every “violation of communality and unity” is a departure out of the “sanctified and holy land where alone there rises the baptismal spring, the waters of salvation, quia una est aqua in ecclesia sancta (Epist. lxxi, 2).” — St Cyprian of Carthage

  38. Father Stephen, you say, “ROCOR takes a uniquely strict approach to anything outside of the communion of Orthodoxy, rebaptizing even Roman Catholics. It is an anomalous situation that creates certain problems, and is indeed a unique pastoral problem that would not happen in other jurisdictions of Orthodoxy. Such situations are presently being discussed within Orthodoxy but have not been solved as of yet.”

    Could you say (or link to where you have perhaps said) more about this?

    And are you saying (among other things) “other jurisdictions of Orthodoxy” recognize ROCOR while ROCOR does not recognize them? And that “other jurisdictions of Orthodoxy” at the same time recognize baptisms which ROCOR does not?

    You speak in another context of “a very poor unity – frequently at deep divide with itself.” If the relations between “jurisdictions of Orthodoxy” you sketch does not represent something similar, why not?

    And could you say more about what baptism into the visible Body of Christ does, and does not, have to do with Communion?

  39. Unity is simple–be unified with Jesus Christ by loving your enemy and repenting of one’s own sins. The rest is moving furniture unless you are a Patriarch, Pope or Synodal bishop.

    We are not all in communion with each other. That is the existential reality. No matter how verklempt we may be by that, it is beyond us to do anything about it other than what I began with.

    Love God, love your spouse, love your neighbor, love your enemies, praise God for all. Practice the faith to which you have been called.

    Frankly that is more than enough for me.

    BTW we Othrodox have pretty much always squabbled with each other. Nothing new.

    Things that are impossible to men are possible with God.

  40. When the Eucharist is removed from this seamless place within the Christian life, and becomes itself an object within our “devotional life” rather than the visible union with the Father through the Son by the Spirit in the Church – then all that is nurtured is our inner fragmentation.

    I think the word rather is key because if this is rather, then this statement is profoundly true

  41. I think procession the priest makes with the presanctified gifts during lent is a good example of integrated devotion. When the people all prostrate before the gifts and then later actually consume the gifts.

  42. Well said. Leonard’s point is right on the mark. Eucharistic politics is not part of the world to come, is not truly Paschal. It is a manifestation of a fragmented and defeated kingdom (cf. Mark 3:24) is open to abuse (as history attests).

    The truly Orthodox will never say of another, that their baptism (or faith, etc) is invalid. To do so is to commit a grievous sin against the person of the Holy Spirit. It is certainly something that all need to take seriously. On the personal level, its simply a matter of committing such persons to the mercy of God (cf. Luke 23:24: “Father, forgive them….etc).

    In Christ.

  43. David,
    Good questions. I have not written particularly about this before, and I’m not aware of any links. An important aspect of this is the inner world of Orthodox relations that are easily misunderstood from the outside.

    ROCOR is an autonomous (self-governing) jurisdiction under the authority of the Patriarch of Moscow (which is autocephalous). It is in full communion with all of Orthodoxy. The reception of converts into the Church is ultimately under the authority of the Bishops in any given jurisdiction. The heart of the matter is that all converts are understood to be returning to the Church, repenting of the sin of schism. That is the theological understanding of what is taking place. There are ancient canons governing this question. Those canons allow for three ways of receiving such converts: Baptism, Chrismation, or Confession and Absolution. The canon provided guidelines that applied to the schismatics and heresies of its time. Of course, we are in a very different landscape today.

    But in all of these cases, what is taking place is an exercise of “economy,” a compassionate discretion whose goal is the salvation of the person.

    ROCOR is well within its proper canonical discretion to receive converts in the manner it does, though the wholesale use of Baptism as the means of reception is the least “economic” approach possible. As such, I described it as extreme. Most of the Orthodox world would use Chrismation where possible. Generally, reception by confession is only extended to converts from Oriental Orthodoxy.

    The landscape of the Orthodox world was devastated under the Communist yoke. I cannot overstate this. Not only were millions of Orthodox martyred (150,000 bishops, priests and monastics in Russia alone) but chaos broke out in the lands of the “diaspora” (America, Western Europe, etc.). Orthodoxy became something of a refugee Church. The ability to regulate during a time when the very Mother Churches who would normally have done such regulating were bordering on extinction – was simply not possible. The present state of multiple jurisdictions, with overlapping bishops, etc., in places like America and Western Europe, is recognized as an anomaly in Orthodoxy and something that must and will be corrected. But it is a difficult process (that has now been set in place through the creation of the Episcopal Assemblies).

    Problems such as the reception of converts and the wide variation in practice will, in time, be among the things addressed.

    What exists in Orthodoxy is a problem of administrative disunity (though that’s too strong a word). It’s a bit of a mess. But there is one faith. There is a level of unity of faith and even practice that is profound. This is sometimes obscured to those on the outside who are baffled by the jurisdictional issues. Those issues are tiny ripples on the surface while the vast ocean of the faith remains undisturbed.

    My observation of Rome would be almost the opposite. It has administrative unity, the surface is smooth. But beneath the surface there are often deep divisions regarding matters of faith and practice. The state of monasticism would be a good example. I fear for Rome. Administrative unity is easy. But the stuff beneath the surface is very intransigent. The rule of lex orandi, lex credendi (“the law of praying is the law of believing”) is critical.

    The faith of the people of God is, and always has been, primarily shaped by their worship life. In the 1960’s, Rome, for various reason, chose to change the grammar of the Mass radical ways – something at least as radical as the Reformation itself. And this was done for merely theoretical reasons, with no experimental knowledge of its long-term effects. But now, the “genie is out of the bottle” and I can’t see how they’ll ever get it back in – because – I think – the results have been pretty disastrous. It would take a lot of time to describe how and what those results are. But, to a large extent, I would describe them as having created a Protestant-style diversity of belief in Roman Catholicism. This diversity of belief (celebrated foolishly by liberal Protestants), is masked by the administrative unity of the Vatican. It is a diversity that, for Orthodoxy, would be worse than death. Orthodoxy continues in unity because of its unity of faith. And only because of this cannot it tolerate occasional historical chaos in administration. But, interestingly, it has been a key to its survival through history.

    This ecclesiology was born in the early Church, when practical things (communications mostly) utterly precluded administrative unity. It’s why the reading of Papal authority back into the early Church is so absurd. Universal jurisdiction would have simply been impossible.

    On the last question – what does Baptism mean and what does it have to do with Communion… this is best answered by the text of the service of Baptism (lex orandi).

    Master of all, show this water to be the water of redemption, the water of sanctification, the purification of flesh and spirit, the loosing of bonds, the remission of sins, the illumination of the soul, the laver of regeneration, the renewal of the spirit, the gift of adoption to sonship, the garment of incorruption, the fountain of life. For thou hast said, O Lord: Wash ye, be ye clean; and put away evil things from your souls. Thou hast bestowed upon us from on high a new birth through water and the spirit. Wherefore, O Lord, manifest thyself in this water, and grant that he who is baptized therein may be transformed; that he may put away from him the old man, which is corrupt through the lusts of the flesh, and that he may be clothed upon with the new man, and renewed after the image of Him who created him; that being buried, after the pattern of thy death, in baptism, he may, in like manner, be a partaker of thy Resurrection and having preserved the gift of thy Holy Spirit, and increased the measure of grace committed unto him, he may receive the prize of his high calling, and be numbered with the first-born whose names are written in heaven, in thee, our God and Lord, Jesus Christ.

    That is about the most complete description of Baptism that I can imagine. At its heart is the question put to the person being baptized: “Do you unite yourself to Christ?” Those things described in the prayer (transformation, death to the old man, renewal, burial, partaker of the resurrection, loosing, redemption, remission of sins, illumination, regeneration, etc.) are the effects of that union with the death and resurrection of Christ.

    There is no theology of Baptism outside the bounds of the visible Church. There is no provision for it in the Scriptures. The Scriptures do not imagine a situation where there is anything other than the one life of the one Church. Thus the situation brought about by the widespread modern schisms is anomalous. There have been ad hoc theologies by some to cover the situation. The notion of “valid/invalid” defined by correct intent, correct performance, etc. actually removes Baptism from its proper context and makes of it a sort of thing in itself. That simply will not do. It is our entrance into the One life, of the One Lord in the One Church.

    Thus, Orthodoxy is confronted by an anomalous situation. Clearly such baptisms are being done by Christian believers, even if something seems lacking. Thus the concern isn’t to pronounce on their legal status (valid/invalid), but to regularize the life of the believer by restoring them to the fullness of the One life, of the One Lord in the One Church.

    Our modern Christian situation is nothing short of disastrous. The Reformation (no matter how warranted) was a religious Armageddon. The Christian landscape of Europe following it was and is a wasteland. America is perhaps even stranger. The unity of the faith, only made possible through a unity of the lex orandi (a single unity of worship), was shattered. Today, that situation has gone beyond the absurd. How can the faith of Christ be rightly nurtured in Rock and Roll and Clown Masses (to use egregious examples)?

    The pressure on Orthodoxy to alter its practice on the one Cup, etc., is simply an invitation to drink the same kool aid that has destroyed the Christian world. If we do, there will be no hope left. Thus, trusting in the Good God, I believe it will never happen.

    Communion in the One Cup is another means of participating in the One Life of the One Lord in the One Church. And it cannot be a casual participation, for this would not save, it would only destroy. Thus the invitation is to the fullness of the One Life – nothing less. The Cup, like the Font, can only be a participation in the whole – this means the whole life of the Church. It’s discipline, worship, fasting, etc., are all as essential as the Cup and the Font.

    That’s all I have time for this morning. Good questions.

  44. Father Stephen,

    Thank you for devoting the time and effort required to such a detailed and thoughtful answer! I will try to follow up a bit, in the understanding that your stewardship of your time and energies is for you to discern, and nothing I say can (as it were) make ‘demands for attention’ superceding that.

    I had just reread in Fr. Andrew Louth’s excellent 1989 book on the Corpus Areopagiticum, “The Eastern Church has never worked out a formal doctrine of sacramental validity(nor involved itself in the complications it has introduced).”

    But was not the strength and breadth of the recognition of the “one” in “one baptism” early and general (even pre-Chalcedon)?

    And how early was what (degree of) consensus as to who may truly baptize? (I think of Tertullian taking to task the idea that St. Thecla could (have) baptize(d).)

    Do current “economical” exercises respecting Canons concerning Baptism and Chrismation tend to proceed explicitly in terms of what might be called ‘conditional’ Baptism and ‘Confirmatio’?

    If not, it would, for example, seem gravely problematical for someone who had no strong reason to doubt that they had been Baptized with the “one Baptism” as an infant to be (re)received.

    Again, with my thanks!

  45. In the 1960′s, Rome, for various reason, chose to change the grammar of the Mass radical ways – something at least as radical as the Reformation itself.

    It’s good to remember that St Paul offered the Eucharistic celebration but never the Divine Liturgy if St John Chrysostom.

  46. Father, I’d like to just say that as an Evangelical Protestant, and Orthodox inquirer, your most recent comments (11/25 @ 9:32 AM) only further my desire to become Orthodox. The Orthodox Church is the only church left that I can find that seems to actually stand for something. Nothing was more saddening to me that visiting a RC church this past summer. Mind you, this was my first visit to a Roman church in 20 years. I had high expectations. I was saddened to see a “praise band” and hear the same songs that I’ve heard in Evangelical churches for years. The saddest part to me though was when lay people in the church were the ones serving the Eurcharist. When I politely told the man that I wouldn’t be partaking because I wasn’t Catholic his response was “it doesn’t matter bro, neither am I!” I wanted to cry right their for the RC church. I don’t wish to offend the RC’s who read this blog, that’s not the point of my comment. I comment simply to say that as a non-O, the exclusivity of the Eurcharist in the O Church is most appealing to me. It shows me that they actually stand for something.

  47. I’ve searched the documents of the second vatican council but I was unable to find the phrase “it doesn’t matter bro, neither am I!

  48. It’s my experience that tradition very much like fasting can turn you into a saint or a demon

  49. David,
    When I came to Orthodoxy, frankly, I threw away private opinion. Who am I to proclaim regarding the sacraments? It was solely at the discretion of the bishop of received me. Anything else would have seemed presumptuous of me. As it was, he decided that I should be received by Chrismation (my baptism had been at age 7 as a Baptist, later confirmed in the Episcopal Church). Had he told me to be baptized I would have accepted that without a word of protest. I came as a penitent to the One Church.

    The Holy Synod of the OCA, in keeping with wider Orthodox practice, determined that I would, however, have to be ordained. Thus, I was ordained Deacon some 9 months after my Chrismation, following training and examination. I was then Priested some 4 months after that, following further examination and training. Again, I had no question. Nor did I consider any of these requirements to be a judgment on the status of any sacramental act I had performed over the 18 years I was an Episcopal priest, nor was it ever suggested that I myself needed to make such a judgment. I never intended anything other than to consecrate bread and wine as the body and blood of Christ. But how could I dare judge such a thing?

    These private judgments seem deeply problematic to me, and formed in the forge of our individualistic notions of democracy, etc. If I had been told to repudiate something, that would have given me cause to reflect. I was indeed asked to renounce certain errors (Branch Theory and a few other such Anglican errors). This I wholeheartedly did.

    There are several concerns at work in the case of the reception of converts. There is the individual conscience. There is also the conscience of the Church and also a care to guard the community from scandal. It is this latter case, I think, that has driven ROCOR’s actions on the widest use of Baptism. They are deeply concerned and opposed to a false ecumenism and are concerned that the acceptance of Baptism outside of Orthodoxy would possibly foster such a false ecumenism. It indeed could. Thus, if the whole of Orthodoxy were to decide to practice reception by Chrismation only, it would be good for it to be articulated in a manner that would preclude a false ecumenism. In the absence of such an articulation, ROCOR’s stance makes sense, even though it be somewhat extreme. But they are just that concerned about a false ecumenism. Their concern is not without merit.

    There is, I am told, a “conditional” Baptism in Orthodoxy – and it is certainly the case that there is no intention to “re-Baptize.” Though it should be noted that some of the “One Baptism” language at present is itself rather extreme and driven by false ecumenical concerns. The fathers referred to Penance (confession and absolution) as the “Baptism of Tears” or “Second Baptism.” It is more than a nickname, and its treatment by many as a mere nickname lessens the dramatic power of penance. The early Church was deeply concerned (cf. Hebrews) about the problem of post-Baptismal sin. We seem to take it for granted today, and this weakens our understanding of the true nature of Baptism.

    I am fascinated that people are incredibly scandalized that the “One Baptism” be preserved, but are not scandalized by the multiplicity of Churches. It would seem that they’ve strained the gnat and swallowed the camel. The repudiation of the One Church is a far more dangerous sin. And if Baptism is repeated in order to guard the One Church, it would, I think, be the lesser scandal.

  50. leonard,
    Of course, “it doesn’t matter bro,” isn’t in the documents of Vatican II. But every time RC’s run into such problems, you seem to run and hide behind what would be “administrative unity.” Nevermind the fact that the practice, the lex orandi, has departed in a hand basket. The documents! The documents! Or the magisterium! etc.

    Anything can be used in a demonic manner – including a tree in paradise. If you think there is no connection between Vatican II and Alan’s experience, then I can’t imagine where you’ve been all your Catholic life. The inner life (the lex orandi) of contemporary liturgical practice in many RC settings unconsciously encourages such laxity – and I think you would agree. It’s tragic. It was clearly not intended. But the idiocy of liturgical reform was that it put in place massive, radical reforms with only theories and guesses about what the effect would be. It is among the most suicidal acts in the history of the Church. And it was done with the blessing of Rome. I don’t give a care for what was or wasn’t intended. That’s why Tradition is not to be so lightly set aside. But little has happened that was so utterly anti-Traditional than the actions following Vatican II.

    I don’t think I would have cared much for Rome prior to Vatican II. But that’s a different matter. But the current “diversity” within the RC mind is purely the result of RC anti-traditionalism. It grieves me to say these things, but they’re true.

  51. Father I am certainly not blind to the problems of the Roman Catholic church. I’ve been going to daily mass for 16 years now. When people claim to know the church I belong to it always reminds me that people also claim to know the wife I’m married to. There’s an analogy there and in that analogy Alan is a little like they guy who went out on a date with her once

  52. Perhaps I should have just said, “Rome’s lex credendi is showing beneath its lex orandi.”

  53. Leonard,
    But nonetheless, Alan was scandalized by something that you and I both know is not a completely isolated event, and that you and I both know would not happen in an Orthodox Church. He would more likely be scandalized by an opposite sort of treatment at Orthodox hands…

  54. Father if ROCOR’s stance on baptism is founded in her appreciation of the uniqueness of the one Church I wonder what of marriage?

    It is becoming more and more counterfeit IMO.

    What of those who had unfaithful husbands before they knew the Church existed?

  55. Sorry Leonard, but your analogy rings hollow. Even on one date, I can find out something about the person that tells me things are wildly amiss. In addition, when I talk to others who have known the woman for years, that I dated once, and they tell me that what I saw once is in fact the ways things are, I know what’s what.

    Are you suggesting that something hasn’t gone horribly wrong when A) the laity are serving the Eucharist, and B) some of the laity aren’t even Catholic?!?!?! Followed up by the fact that the “homily” I heard was a feel good statement that could have been affirmed by any Muslim, Atheist, humanist, or Hindu.

    Sorry Leonard, try pulling someone else’s leg, mine are long enough.

  56. Fr, I’m not following your last statement: “he would more likely be scandalized by an opposite sort of treatment at O hands.” It sounds like you’re saying that I would be scandalized to be excluded from the Eucharist at an O church. I wish to assure you that is most certainly not the case. I have been visiting a local O parish for a number of months and have been speaking with the Priest there. As I stated in an earlier comment, the fact that I am not allowed to receive the Holy Things there actually attracts me to The Church.

  57. Father Stephen,

    Thank you for setting out your personal experience so clearly.

    I am not sure how you are relating what the Church teaches/understands to “private opinion” and “private judgments”.

    What the Church teaches/understands is surely not “solely at the discretion of the bishop”, each and every bishop: what are you saying is?

    And perhaps you can help me understand an example of reconciliation about the beginning of which I read, but not, in as much detail, the end. I would be grateful if you could also provide or direct to a wider context on return, reconcilation, penitence, and related matters, in addition to what you have written above about Baptism, Chrismation, and Penance (Confession and Absolution).

    Nearly a decade ago, I read a newspaper report which spoke of a ‘schism’ between the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the Church of Greece. This was soon corrected by a letter to the editor from a former president of SYNDESMOS which made a very strong impression upon me: he wrote that there was no question of such a ‘schism’ between the Churches but that Patriarch Bartholomew broke the ‘sacramental union’ with Archbishop Christodoulos alone which meant that union remained intact where all other clergy and lay faithful of the Church of Greece were concerned. I understand that this ‘broken sacramental union’ was soon restored, but I never read about it in detail. How was that done? How would it have been done, had the Patriarch indeed broken it with all members of the Church of Greece? Or, to take another example, where I have read of the beginning (in Metropolitan Kallistos’s book), but not the end, how were all the Orthodox who signed the Union of Florence (when only St. Mark of Ephesus did not) who were later reconciled, reconciled?

  58. Alan, you need to understand that the Roman Catholic church does not have open communion. We have documents that discuss this. I go to mass in Catholic churches in different parts of the country and I go up to receive communion and no one questions me. If I told the priest that I was a baptist he would not give it to me.

  59. David,
    No, of course not. But I trusted the bishop, acting in union with the Holy Synod, that he would act in good faith as the Orthodox Church. As such, I would not have thought to argue with anyone about how I was to be received (and certainly have no arguments now). My sense of things is much the same now. I trust my bishop, acting in union with the Holy Synod, in union with the various Patriarchates to be the Orthodox Church. If the Church says how I should be received – it’s all that matters. In that sense I suppose I would be saying that I would not think of considering Baptism as an objective reality somehow separate from the reality of the Church. This is a fault, I think, of some. That there is some formula, which, if followed, creates some sort of valid sacramental reality which now the hierarchy of the Church must deal with as a fait accompli. That would just be strange. Does that make sense?

    The severing of communion, or the refusal to commemorate another bishop in the diptychs (the formal prayers for the bishops of autocephalous Churches, read in the hierarchical liturgy of the head of an autocephalous Church), is sort of a “shot across the bow,” signaling the danger of an imminent severing of ties (excommunication) or similar action between bishops.

    I had to get used to this after I became Orthodox. But in a world in which communion is, more or less, the only true administrative reality, then difficult problems of diplomacy between hierarchs (generally on a Patriarchal level) are met with varying levels of impaired communion. It means “this is extremely serious, and I’m not kidding.”

    At one point in the 90’s, this situation occurred for a few months between Moscow and Constantinople. I was alarmed, to say the least. But they worked it out and came to an agreement. Ultimately, I find it preferable to the legal wrangling and court battles of Protestants (like the Anglicans) who will sue each other but still be in communion.

    I’m not sure about all the theoretical levels this could reach. But it would be unprecedented, more or less.

    The aftermath of the Council of Florence was some generations in being healed, I understand.

    But think of things without administrative categories, in which the boundaries and reality of the Church are eucharistic. They are dealt with spiritually, through repentance and forgiveness and reconciliation. Generally, only bishops can restore another bishop who has passed into schism. It is not a sin that can be loosed simply by a priest, if I understand correctly. It’s not something within the purview of a priest. I read of such an example in the book Father Arseny, where he heard the confession of a dying bishop from the “Living Church” schism, but could not give absolution. He promised that if he himself survived, that he would relay the confession to a bishop where the absolution could then be given (posthumously).

    I have not read the precise historical aftermath of Florence. There were some who persisted in union with Rome for a while.

  60. Leonard,
    Well, that’s another matter. It would not surprise me. I’ve watched videos of Halloween Masses with utterly bizarre things. It does not inspire confidence in me that such a thing would not happen. I personally know of cases where communion was given rather indiscriminately in a Catholic Church service. I have no reason to doubt Alan’s story. And I think it’s uncalled for to suggest that he is being untruthful. Sorry.

    I have deleted the further comments on that point.

  61. Leonard,
    What you are telling me is that you have no experience on the basis of which to contradict Alan. That said, the matter of your concern in the conversation is dropped.

  62. Leonard,
    Alan fully understands that the RC doesn’t have open communion. The scandal is that this is not supposed to happen – but it does. The practice doesn’t fit the theory. My point is that the discipline has long ago broken down because the whole lex orandi is broken. It is producing confusion across the face of the Church. It is why it is serious.

  63. I haven’t followed this discussion up until now, so forgive me, Fr. Stephen, if I accidentally tread on ground that you have deemed off limits.

    I do not doubt at all that there have been abuses in the Catholic Church – and I say that as a Catholic. And I do not deny that they were more prevalent after Vatican II. And I’m not claiming that everything about Vatican II was good.

    However, I’d like to suggest that we not throw the baby out with the bath water. Because someone has abused a practice does not, to me, suggest that the practice itself should never occur.

    As Catholic lay woman, I have been a lector with the great privilege of proclaiming Holy Scripture to the congregation. In the past, I served as a Eucharistic Minister, for which I was given training and certification. I brought communion to a home bound woman weekly until her death. I gave communion at my church, following the rules set out in my training. I have chosen to not continue this ministry for personal reasons, but my priest will very occasionally ask me to do it when there is a shortage of active ministers. (If you wonder why he does not do it all himself, I’m sure he would if the church required it of him. However, he is 81 years old and I am glad that there are other people in the church who accept this sacred duty.)

    I respect that Orthodox may choose to not engage lay ministers or women in such roles – it is not for me to judge your practices. I am here to learn.

    However, having an active laity, well-screened and prepared for their roles, can be a beautiful thing. It reminds us that we all have a role in ministering to each other. There are also many deeply spiritual women who have much to offer. Prior to Vatican, women and the laity had virtually no participation and I think the Church was worse off for it.

    Could Vatican II been carried out better, changes prepared for (and some not made), etc.? Most likely – but I am not in a position to say who did what wrong. I know that the Catholic Church has a lot of brokenness in it – anywhere there is a large group of people assembled we will find brokenness and sin.

    Please pray for us. I apologize to any of you whose faith has been damaged by the errors of my Church – but please believe that there is still a vibrant core of holiness remaining within her (Only by the grace of God which is the only hope that any of have.)

  64. The difference between Orthodox practice and what Leonard describes as “closed communion” in his comment Nov. 25 at 10:14, is illustrated by what is done at my parish. In the books containing the Liturgy for use by worshippers, there is an explicit explanation prior to the section on reception of the Holy Gifts that only Orthodox Christians who have properly prepared may partake of the Body and Blood of the Eucharist. Then, if a person he doesn’t know comes up to the Chalice, any of the priests of my parish asks first if that person is Orthodox and for sufficient information (e.g., parish of which they are a member, if they have fasted?) to satisfy himself that the person is a member of a canonical Orthodox Church and has properly prepared. It is actually quite rare for this to happen because Orthodox visiting other parishes know it is proper to first introduce themselves and give this sort of information ahead of time to the priest if they wish to commune. Even when I was still an inquirer, not Orthodox, I had read online at the parish web site that this was the procedure at the parish I was visiting as well. It was further explained to me by the priest and parishioners once I had started attending regularly that though I could not commune, I could go up during Communion to receive the priest’s blessing instead.

    If those distributing the gifts during communion in a RC parish do not ask an unfamiliar person if they are Roman Catholic, in today’s casual intercommunion landscape among the many varied traditions all claiming to be Christian, how would they know they are, in fact, so? It doesn’t make sense in that circumstance not to first ask if you are truly intending to guard the Chalice against its abuse.

  65. Mary Benton,
    There is holiness to be found throughout the Christian world. Do not understand my comments and article as just taking swipes at Rome. My point, is to turn our thoughts and attention to the importance of how the Tradition is nurtured and given in the life of the Church. The “lex orandi, lex credendi,” saying from the early Church – that we believe what we pray is a deeply important principle. It says that the life of the people of God is formed and shaped, often quite unconsciously, in the life of worship. Thus nothing is more important on a day to day basis than the worship life of the Church. Its continuity through the ages is essential to the faith.

    There have been many efforts over the past 500 years to radically change the worship life of Christians. This was quite intentional on the part of the Reformers. The liturgical reform movement that swept through beginning in the 60’s had many good intentions. I think, however, that it was far too sweeping in its reform (hard to stop a moving train). The unintended consequences of those reforms are evidenced in many ways today.

    But having said that, it can also be said that despite radical and wholesale changes, there is a core that remains even in some of the most radically reformed places. God has not constructed the gospel in such a fragile manner that the slightest tweak of the liturgy brings the whole thing crumbling down. The Spirit of God strives with us despite our worst efforts.

    But it is also true that the Orthodox generally view all of these things with great caution and concern – and guard their own inheritance carefully. For which I give thanks.

  66. Karen & Father Stephen,

    Thank you both for your comments.

    At my RC parish (and I think in most), there is similar message in the books used for worship about closed communion. There are also occasionally people who come forward for a blessing rather than communion and children too young for communion are regularly blessed.

    I have not attended an Orthodox Liturgy (yet) and therefore do not know how it compares to the Catholic in this regard. But it seems that with many Catholic parishes being quite large and/or welcoming many visitors, it may be difficult for a priest to remember everyone – or to have time for introductions to any and all unfamiliar faces.

    I think that this is weakness in Roman Catholicism, i.e. having parishes of a size or structure that the priest (or parishioners) cannot readily distinguish between members and nonmembers. Unfortunately, it is a problem not easily corrected (if anyone is noticing that it needs correcting) because of the limited number of priests relative to those in attendance. That too, of course, is the result of a complicated interaction of factors.

  67. Mary Benton,
    One difference you will note is that there are no children too young for communion in Orthodoxy. We give to communion to infants once they are Baptized. Indeed, in the Old Country, it is often only the infants and young children coming to communion because adults have not made proper preparation, and young children are not required to make preparation.

  68. Father Stephen –

    Grace, mercy and peace be to you, from God Our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ!

    I will explain a bit more below, but I believe your second sentence was just a bit too much of a blanket critique.

    I am a Priest, Em. – of the LCMS. I came so close to swimming the Bosporus – I actually waded chest deep into the deeper waters (where I still find myself at times!). But Wittenburg called me back out of the water. I had to swim back “across the Rhine” (actually, across a tributary of the Elbe.

    I was baptized and raised RCC . . . but in my 20’s discovered, not the “Christology of Protestantism” as it is so often mis-defined, but of the One, Holy Catholic Faith returned to its roots. We confessional, Eucharistic Lutherans (Luther hated the Church being given his name!), understand the very nature of the One Holy Church. If it is at the holy Altar and in the Body and Blood of He who feeds us Himself we find the Church, yes, a thousand time.

    If not, then we are “playing Church.”

    Calvin, Zwingli, and their descendants did “,em>play Church.” Sad to say, some among “former” Lutherans defected to the Reformed. But not all. The LCMS has fought war after war to avoid the “Protestant” error. Have we always been successful? About as much as Orthodoxy. The devil wishes his way, and we fight against him!

    What I find amusing, and I have discussed it at great length with my best buddy who did swim the Bosporus – is how we Orthodox Lutherans always get confused bu others with the heretics (i.e. – Calvin and Zwingli – the TRUE originators of what you call “Protestant).” I have no dog in their (the “protestants”) hunt whatsoever. They have lost the Blessed Mysteries, redefined the entire nature of the Χριστός – and in general, wreaked havoc within the One Holy.

    No, true, Luther did not/could not get it all – none of us (neither you nor me – could – given his situation!), but he set the ship aright mostly aright. I am a huge fan of Schmemann (especially, The Eucharist), and in Father Alexander’s words – especially regarding Christology and theosis, I found many, many echoes of Luther’s words and teaching.

    Confessional Lutherans may not meet meet every scintilla of Orthodoxy. We get that. But we deal with the hand with which we have been dealt. We have souls to be saved. We don’t have the luxury otherwise. We do the historic Divine Liturgy, almost always chant, make homiletical and proper distinctions between the Law, which always accuses, and the Gospel, which immerses us in the Divine Mysteries. We have the “three-fold” ministry – just unfortunately, by other terms/names. It still operates as the Lord intended anyway.

    Have we things to learn from Orthodoxy? Of course. Have the Orthodox things to learn from us. Of course. I would only mention here Father Peck’s piece> that explains how we Orthodox Lutherans “get” proper Christology, but how that leads what we call “sanctification” (becoming holy) into what you call (and I) “theosis.”

    We get it.

    If nothing else – be charitable. Lutherans of the “Confessional” stripe hate being called “Protestants</em." Luther was alone a "Reformer."

    We are not.


  69. I got the html right in my draft – it didn’t “translate.”

    If you can correct it, please do, or I will re-submit the posting.

    Many thanks – jb

  70. jb,
    Not sure which word to strike. I’ve met a few former LCMS folks in Orthodoxy. I’ve only known a few things about them – mostly just conservative Lutherans (confessional Lutherans). I certainly want to be charitable to all. It is interesting to me that people in the Church of Christ also don’t think they are Protestants. I’ve also been told by some that they are not Protestants because they go to a non-denominational Church. One of the most difficult existential things for me to come to grips with when I was an Anglican (high church), was admitting that the branch theory was false and that I, in fact, was a Protestant minister, and not a priest of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. I was well on the way to conversion by then. I understand living with the hand you’ve been dealt – history was not of our creation. I could never presume to decide what another person should do. I made the journey into Orthodoxy because God made it possible. What souls will or will not have been saved through my ministry is in God’s hands. The number of souls who may be lost through my ministry makes me tremble. I labor to bring souls into the only “safe” harbor I know, and still there are dangers in the water.

  71. Father Stephen –

    I am not sure if you have heard of the The Rev. Dr. Patrick Fodor – Google will certainly bring him into focus . . .

    He is my Father Confessor, my very bestest friend, formerly Orthodox, and now <a href="http://;here.

    Father Stephen, if I might begin “last to first” – it is not incumbent upon any of us weird collar wearers to know who or how many we might have lost, as long as we are faithful to the Gospel of Christ and the Blessed Mysteries in our teaching and preaching and praxis. Those that reject the Χριστός, do so for reasons beyond our meager capabilities.

    Yes, each of us must live with hand we are dealt, although I truly hold that neither you were, nor I at present, were, or are – “Protestants.” It is only recently that the RCC is beginning to admit Luther was a Reformer (not Protestant), and a truly faithful son of the Church.

    Of course, the final judgment belongs to the Lord, but Ole Marty got the Gospel as FEW others have ever gotten it.

    Patrick and I often talk about “foxholes” as in “the foxholes of war.” No atheists need apply. But my/our point is that in this day and age of spiritual warfare, those of us who are close in Gospel and the Holy Sacraments, ought to draw closer – that maybe we let “denominational” boundaries be less of a factor than the reality of the “Common Confession” we have among us.

    I could journey into Orthodoxy, but not with my collar on. I have long since determined that I can do more with the “collar” I wear” – than without it. My whole adult life and vocation has been about that. It is not about me – please believe me, but I can say more with the collar than without it.

    To be exact about “protestants” – sans the mysteries, which the CoC and the Non-denom’s deny, they may be, by the sheer grace of God, within the household of faith, but they are not “catholic” by any means. And catholicity is a critical issue. It is of the Blessed Creeds, and they rarely see those as part of the Divine Liturgy, do they?

    There are dangers in the water, as you say, and it is truly a bit scary to be the one chasing away the sharks; yet – we must be the ones to do so.

    I pray, personally for the day when those of us so close in the faith, despite the earthly denominational distinctions, can kneel together at the Holy Altar.

    Until the, I remain yours in the Χριστός anyway –

    Rev. Fr. Jeff Baxter

  72. Father Stephen,

    My apologies for being so long in returning to thank you for your reply, with its many illuminating details in answer to my questions.

    Your post and the comments have moved me to do some (re)reading. This has included a passage which has long ‘stuck’ in my mind, Vladimir Lossky’s quotation in The Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church (ch. 8) from St. Seraphim of Sarov, which reads (in part), “This enkindled breath which we faithful Christians all receive in the sacrament of holy baptism is sealed with the sacred seals of holy chrism […] according to the directions of the Church; […] This baptismal grace is so great, this source of life so necessary to man, that it is not withdrawn from a heretic until the hour of his death”. No reference is provided – perhaps you know the exact source (and so, more of the context)? It seems to consider an Orthodox baptism (which I understand can be administered by an Orthodox layman in a case of necessity), and the possibility of a departure into heresy thereafter. But it does not obviously exclude a ‘recognized’ baptism, such as your own. Is not the recognition of Baptism (to vary your expression) always the recognition of Baptism as an objective reality not separate from the reality of the Church? That is, that it is a real recognition of that particular Baptism as a Baptism of and into the Church.

    If you will excuse a strange, but not a frivolous question, have you ever known of non-Orthodox(for example, non-Chalcedonian) parents presenting a baptized baby for Communion in an Orthodox Church, and, if so, with what sequel?

  73. I have no doubt that unity will come. But I believe it will be in the end – and look more like Wurmbrand’s Tortured for Christ. As we started out in the catacombs, so we will end there.

    Why does it have to be that way? Why can’t we have unity here and now? It is only under the most dire conditions that most of us can finally hand in our sins in exchange for our souls – and only then will there no longer be anything that separates us.

  74. Unity actually may never come. Consider the following verse:
    1 Corinthians 11:19
    19 for there must be factions among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized.

    I’ve read speculations that full viable unity may never be obtainable. This doesn’t absolve us of the responsibility to desire it

  75. I think people deeply misunderstand Christ’s prayer in John 17, “They they all may be one.” We lift this verse out of its proper context and see it only in the modern context of denominationalism. The Great Litany, in the Divine Liturgy, prays, “For the unity of the Holy Churches of God…” Believe me, this prayer is not about unity with the non-Orthodox. It has no ecumenical intentions. It was in the Divine Liturgy when there was only “one” numerical Church.

    The meaning of the verse refers to the quality of one. “That they may all be one, as You and I are one.” This is about the character of our relationship with God and our union with Him. Simply being numerically one (if that happened worldwide) would not be an answer to the prayer.

    There is a reason that the Orthodox pray this prayer in the Great Litany, “for the unity of the Holy Churches of God” (which means the Church in its various locations). It is prayed just as we pray for the Holy Spirit to make the bread and wine to be the Body and Blood of Christ. “One” is a quality of our life in Christ, not institutional existence. To quote Fr. Alexander Schmemann, the Church is not an institution that has sacraments, the Church is a sacrament that has institutions. This goes back to what I have said about the “politics of the cup.” The Cup is the reality – it is not the tail wagged by the institutional dog.

    The One for which we pray is a mode of existence – that we are in one another, and one another in us, with us in Christ and Christ in us. It is a One that is also manifest in one prayer, one sacrament, one mind, one confession, one faith. The weak “institutional” loyalty and commonality that some think of when they pray for unity is, more or less, an abomination to God – in that it poses to be something it is not and thus deceives God’s people.

    If we are not of one mind and one heart, then we are not one. If we want a unity that consists of something other than one mind and one heart, then we have been deceived. This is the miracle of the Church, and why it has its proper place in the Creed.

  76. Father here is what John Paul II said in Ut Unum sint along those very lines

    In this courageous journey towards unity, the transparency and the prudence of faith require us to avoid both false irenicism and indifference to the Church’s ordinances.131 Conversely, that same transparency and prudence urge us to reject a halfhearted commitment to unity and, even more, a prejudicial opposition or a defeatism which tends to see everything in negative terms.

    To uphold a vision of unity which takes account of all the demands of revealed truth does not mean to put a brake on the ecumenical movement.132 On the contrary, it means preventing it from settling for apparent solutions which would lead to no firm and solid results.133 The obligation to respect the truth is absolute. Is this not the law of the Gospel?

  77. …..and we Orthodox do that by rejecting the demands of the universal jurisdiction of the Bishop of Rome while those who uphold the universal jurisdiction of the Bishop of Rome do it by calling us into submission to that jurisdiction.

    The formula does not solve anything.
    1. Is the Christology the same?
    2. Is the ecclesiology the same (which includes the sacraments/mysteries)?
    3. Is the soteriology the same?
    4. Is the anthropology the same?
    5. Is the Theotokos venerated as such and called blessed?

    Of course, Jesus Christ saves whether we agree with it or not, but we cannot manifest oneness unless we are is substantial, fundamental agreement on those main points (and probably others).

    It would be ‘nicer’ if we together, but as Father said that is not necessarily ‘one’. Besides nice and ignorant share a common root.

    I will say again as I’ve said before: I spent too many years in the swamps of heresy and have seen too many people damaged emotionally and spiritually by seemingly harmless beliefs to want anything but the truth and settling for anything less than that for superficial unity is not in me. Wrong belief kills people. I’ve seen it. I participated in it to my everlasting shame (save the grace of God). I am unable to condone it–not because I’m a nasty old crumudgeon, but because I don’t want anyone left in the swamps.

    So…it simple to be one—work at becoming Orthodox in heart, mind and soul. Not just the outward trappings or the ability to cite theology and the fathers, but in one’s inmost being.

    Lord forgive me, a sinner.

  78. Michael as I mentioned before my last post many people including myself believe that there never will be full visible unity. Rome is certainly not right about everything but neither is Orthodoxy. Correct me if I’m wrong.

  79. Well, Leonard, the is either one Church or there isn’t. There is sin everywhere but as far as having, protecting and living the Apostolic faith, not that we all do, the Orthodox have it all over the RCC.

    Either the RCC is schismatic or we are. But then, like I said, it is not about being right. Truth is not divisible or an idea. Truth is a person.

    I know where He is. I know where He wants me to be. I encounter Him every time I go to an Orthodox Church. I’ve never had that encounter in a Roman Catholic Church. I understand some have.

    That leaves me in a state of wonder. Wonder if it is the same Jesus; wonder too that, assuming it is, that He is so merciful and compassionate and I am not.

    My approach is that visible unity is not something for me to worry about. Like Peter I am simply asked to follow Him where He leads me; share what He shows me and allow Him to give the increase. Anything else is distraction.

    When I encounter people who serve Him (usually more faithfully than I), I know them and they know me. They are not all Orthodox and I don’t have that with all Orthodox. I’ve had that connection with precisely one Roman Catholic in my life before this blog. That is about 60 years and a lot of interaction over the years. Prior to this blog I knew more about the Catholic faith and cared more about it than most of the Catholics I met. I’m sure similar stories can be told of many Orthodox.
    Apart from Him however there is nothing.

    The question is “which of us changed”. Where is Jesus Christ and which Christ is He?

    There, by His grace, I will be. There, by His grace, I am. That is all I know and all I need to know.

  80. leonard,
    Have your read Romanides on the Rise of Frankish Feudalism (and Doctrine)? Irrespective of his style –which admittedly pulls no punches- he is perhaps the clearest and most methodical historian on the matter. He explains formidably how an initial division between the Frankoteutonic conquerors of the old Rome and the –still Orthodox – old Rome eventually became a split between East and West, leading to the huge divide in thought we see now.
    He especially shows how the Franks applied their policy of destroying the unity found within what were still called the ‘Romans’ who had come under their rule and the ‘East Romans’, (the Orthodox), under the rule of Constantinople. He explains how they played one Roman party against the other, took neither side, and finally condemned both the iconoclasts and the Seventh Ecumenical Synod (786/7) at their own Council of Frankfurt in 794.
    Few people now that -in the time of Pippin of Herestal (687-715) and Charles Martel (715-741)- many of the Franks who replaced Roman bishops were military leaders who, according to Saint Boniface, “shed the blood of Christians like that of the pagans.”
    Romanides explains how Pope Leo III (795-816) the successor of Hadrian, was accused of immoral conduct. Charlemagne took a personal and active interest in the investigations that caused Leo to be brought to him in Paderborn. Leo was sent back to Rome, followed by Charlemagne, who continued the ‘investigations’. The Frankish king required finally that Leo swear his innocence on the Bible, which he did on December 23, (800). Two days later Leo crowned Charlemagne “Emperor of the Romans.”… Charlemagne had arranged to get the title “Emperor” in exchange for Leo’s exoneration. Charlemagne caused the filioque (the new line in the Creed that said that the Holy Spirit, “proceeds from the Father and the Son,” instead of the original which read, “proceeds from the Father, to be added to the Frankish Creed, without consulting the pope. When the controversy over this addition broke out in Jerusalem, Charlemagne convoked the Council of Aachen (809) and decreed that this addition was a dogma necessary for salvation. With this fait accomplit under his belt, he tried to pressure Pope Leo III into accepting it.
    Pope Leo rejected the filioque not only as an addition to the Creed, but also as doctrine, claiming that the Fathers left it out of the Creed neither out of ignorance, nor out of negligence, nor out of oversight, but on purpose and by divine inspiration. What Leo said to the Franks but in diplomatic terms, was that the addition of the filioque to the Creed is a heresy.
    The so-called split between East and West was, in reality, the importation into Old Rome of the schism provoked by Charlemagne and carried there by the Franks and Germans who took over the papacy.

  81. The filioque is an excellent example of Where Rome is not right about everything. And I do stand corrected

  82. Michael, Mother Teresa had that encounter in the gutters of India. Just look a little harder next time. Sometimes even on the road to emmaus it’s hard to encounter him.

  83. Rome had many champions of the faith.

    The filioque was used to battle Arianism in the West — bad theology unnecessarily and inappropriately was leveraged in the fight against a heresy and became a dogma that Rome later used, unfortunately, against the whole church and her councils.

    Champions and chumps are everywhere. The question for me is, where is the cup?

  84. Dino,
    I agree that the role of the Franks is key in the development of the Papacy. Whereas prior to Charlemagne, Old Rome’s largest concern was purity of doctrine, from the beginning of the Frankish influence forward, the arguments begin to shift steadily towards jurisdictional power. It’s subtle at first but grows.

    I think that crowning a second emperor was the first great act of schism – even though it was a political schism. But our modern world is so removed from having any affinity or feel for the role and importance of an emperor that this is completely lost on them. The symphony between Church and Empire – the Church is One – the Empire is One – falls on deaf ears. Of course, there were Christian nations, not part of the Empire (Georgia, for example). And the Franks certainly could and should have made such an argument. But the claim for Charlemagne to be Emperor of the Roman Empire – was both schismatic and part of a larger, failed scheme to conquer the whole of the Empire.

    But the political aims of the Franks were quite clear, and they used the Church rather brutally for those ends. The filioque is indeed the best example. When you go from the clear defense of the Creed by Leo III to the papacy’s eventual championing of the new Creed over the period of a couple of centuries – and you see where the origins of the pressure to change the Creed come from, how can anyone deny that the Frankish kings succeeded in perverting the Papacy? And at the same time, the rhetoric of the Papacy shifts from doctrine to domination. It became the tool of a desire to rule. That’s Romanides’ take, as I understand it, and it’s hard to argue with. Romanides indeed pulls no punches, he also misses no opportunity to throw salt on the wounds…which has often weakened one of the more significant modern Orthodox voices. Pity.

  85. Michael Patrick,
    The thing about Arianism in the West is overplayed in an effort to justify the filioque. Charlemagne saw a wedge to use against the East and played his hand for that – not even being put off by the condemnation of a Pope. He was the force behind it, not some hatred of Arianism and love of Nicaea. And his political will (and his successors) eventually triumphed. The filioque is triumphalism – the Cup resides in the Church of Nicaea (not meaning the city, but the Church that has remained faithful to the Council despite the political pressures of Charlemagne’s successors). Follow the Council to the Cup.

  86. Without being one bit sarcastic I would say that this is the kind of dialog that’s good for everyone. Time for me to get the history books out again.

  87. leonard, I have no doubt that there are and have been many holy people in the Roman Catholic Church. That is a wonderful grace. I appreciate that and thank God for it. But I also can’t forget that, if memory serves, Mother Theresa leant her name to the petition asking the Pope to declare Mary a part of the Godhead.

    It is simply this: I trust the Orthodox Church on matters of faith and doctrine and know the living presence of our Incarnate Lord each time I am blessed to partake of the Cup. That is also where I experience oneness in a manner that includes the seen and unseen, the past, present and future. I am totally unworthy of such a gift, yet I have been given it. The Orthodox Church is the only place I know it to be.

    I don’t trust the Roman Catholic Church and in fact never in my meanderings was I ever attracted to her. A lot went into that that is supremely unimportant. In the last few years with some reading I have done and the interaction with folks on this blog, I have experienced some new things. That is good.

    Still doesn’t change my overall understanding one bit. Sorry if that offends, it is not meant to. If you find in the Catholic Church what I find in the Orthodox Church, God be praised.

  88. Michael, you wrote: “But I also can’t forget that, if memory serves, Mother Theresa leant her name to the petition asking the Pope to declare Mary a part of the Godhead.”

    This is a serious claim. Do you have a source for this?

  89. There is an old battle custom amongst certain Native American Plains tribes: the warriors carried with them two long, strong stakes with rawhide rope attached. When they went into battle, they tied the rope to themselves and drove the stakes into the ground so that they would stand their ground against the enemy.

    I am not a very strong or valiant warrior, but I have driven my stakes into the solid, living ground of the Orthodox Church.

    May God strengthen us all.

  90. No, it was a long time ago (late 80’s) There were a number of high profile women religious including Mother Angelica of EWTN fame who supported the petition. I remember Mother Theresa because it shocked me so much that she, of all people, would do that.

    The Pope, fortunately, simply ignored it and it went away. Just goes to show that not all saints are prefect in their theology.

    St. Gregory of Nyssa after all was a believer in universal salvation.

  91. I think Michael may be talking about the movement to have yet another “infallible” proclamation that Mary is Co-Redemptrix.
    Here is what Mother Teresa said…” In the words of the late Mother Teresa of Calcutta, “Of course Mary is the Co-redemptrix – she gave Jesus his body, and his body is what saved us.” Not quite as polemical as saying she wanted her declared to be God. Although I never knew the woman personally my guess is that she didn’t believe that the Blessed Virgin Mary was God. It is usually only triumphal traditionalists who can’t get enough papal infallibility but in truth you will never see than gun drawn ever again.

  92. Mother Teresa may have been a little off on this but I’ve heard that some of her other work wasn’t half bad!

  93. leonard, you are correct, the official request was for co-redemptrix status, but the discussion by some around it was that it would make the Holy Trinity into a Holy Square.

    And, yes, her work was truly amazing and inspiring. Comparing Orthodox Saints to Catholic Saints to see whose are ‘better’ is a bit like proof-texting–unproductive and exhausting.

    I stipulate(again)there is holiness in the Roman Catholic Church. Holiness is holiness no matter where it is found.

    The only place where I have a chance for holiness, is the Orthodox Church. I could never be obedient to what the Roman Church asks. I struggle with the obedience asked by the Orthodox Church, but it is at least feasible.

  94. Michael, one other thing. I don’t find things in the RCC to be to my liking. Thomas Merton, a Cistercian once wrote in one of his books that he told his spiritual father that he felt he was being called to the Carthusians. His spiritual father replied “That’s the greatest example of self love that I have ever heard” I’ve always loved that story!

  95. the point that becomes clear from all of these comments is that no one can agree…how does that point us to THE truth?

  96. Leonard,
    the fact that Christ can freely give His Grace wherever He chooses and save people floating ‘outside the Ark’ does not mean that there isn’t one. There’s only one Ark.
    The grave misunderstandings of the denominations outside of Orthodoxy – the filioque in RCC is not the only one at all – are amongst the testaments to them not being the “Ark”.
    The treasure of “Patristic theology” is evidently exclusively Orthodox, (and has not ceased…) and is more often than not misunderstood in the West. Those non-Orthodox who discover these treasures, and who suspect that their thirst for this depth is found there -in Orthodoxy- and not in the ‘stochastic’ and counterfeit ‘theologies’ of the West quench their thirst not without a certain yearning – even if they never manage to officially take the plunge for hundreds of reasons.

  97. The understanding of the Uncreated Glory/Kingdom (as understood in all the Fathers) was gradually abandoned in the West. This was in favour of an almost Jewish understanding (I am implying their expectation of a worldly King/Messiah) of a created Kingdom/Empire/Church/Glory, has certainly infiltrated the RCC even before the schism.

  98. I hope this excellent thread can steer clear of partisanship. I’m saying only because it appears to so near.

  99. Easton,
    The disagreement you see (and it’s not that there is no agreement), is pretty much the classical disagreements between Roman Catholics and the Orthodox (both being present in this discussion).

  100. One of my old friends and mentors grew up in the Protestant church, spent the next 30 years with the Orthodox, and for the last 15 has been a Roman Catholic. He recently made a general statement in casual conversation that I have found to be quite accurate – as far as it goes:

    –The Orthodox have the right theology but are not in touch with the world around them.
    –The Roman Catholics are very much in touch with the world but thereby sometimes loose their grip on theology.
    –The Protestants have great preaching and knowledge of the Bible, but often loose their way because they don’t know or respect the roots of their past.

    I contend that by virtue of being fallen human beings, we all err in one way or another, despite our best intentions.

  101. Drewster,
    As an Orthodox writer who observes and comments a great deal on culture – I find am astounded to be told that the Orthodox are out of touch with the world around them. They are not conformed to the dominant Protestant/secular culture, I admit, but because of that, often see many things that the fish who swim in such waters in a native manner do not.

    Sure, everybody errs. No one is without sin.

  102. Fr. Stephen,

    I don’t disagree in the slightest. There are things that the fish in the water don’t see or get, but the same could be said for those out of it. There are advantages and disadvantages to both perspectives, things to be gained and things to be lost.

    My contention is that they need each other.

    And by the way, you will surely not try to convince me that you are average and unremarkable in the Orthodox world.

  103. drewster,
    I take that ‘accusation’ of Orthodoxy as a possible compliment in the light of the classic words of the Epistle to Diognitus. True Christian’s, like Christ are ‘not of this world’. But as Father said, that also means they are the only ones who can clearly see the delusion of this world around them and come into ‘proper’ contact with it. Most others don’t see the forest for the trees.
    It is the Orthodox “life” that safeguards the right theology; and the right theology is always manifested in the right life, the right love, the right death. Outside of Orthodoxy I see even the core of our theology, (the Cross and the resurrection), misunderstood to a lesser or greater degree.
    To live and – to be far more precise – to die as a Christian this right theology is required. Only in Orthodoxy this is safeguarded and available not just to the erudite (as it is not stochastic) but even to the completely unlettered.
    It is always a temptation for us all to leave the crucificial, yet joyous life, for a ‘Christianity without the Cross’… Yes, nobody can live as a Christian, we can only die as Christians since Eternal Life was made manifest unto us through the Cross and through death (our Lord’s). Therefore it is through our freely embraced crucificial death for the sake of Christ’s commandments that one can truly live… This is how the renewal of man in the image of our Lord is completed. And this is safeguarded in the right theology of Orthodoxy…

  104. Drewster,
    It didn’t come across as an accusation from you at all 🙂
    I just labelled your old friend’s statement of Orthodoxy (“out of touch”) an ‘accusation’ of his (since he left) in order to contraposition that a possible negative understanding of this is not the only way one should perceive it.

  105. Our brother Leonard Nugent deplores the fact that is said to have said of the Theotokos: “Of course Mary is the Co-redemptrix – she gave Jesus his body, and his body is what saved us.”

    We Orthodox might lighten up a bit. This is actually quite close to what our beloved Fr. Stephen said in his post on “Saving Mary” last month–and it troubled my son, who thought it idolizes our Lady.

    And, yes, in limited contexts we also refer to Mary as co-redmptrix, and no that does not imply that anyone thinks she is divine or part of the Holy Trinity merely, like we, a collaborator with Christ in His work but she especially so since she was meek enough and humble enough to receive the Angelica Salutation and say “Be it done unto me according to thy word.” She epitomizes what we are all in our own station called to do.

    Christ is in our midst.

  106. AR,
    Classically, the answer is “prayer.” I would restate it to say, “Union with God,” since that’s what I think prayer is.

  107. Lovie,
    I agree that there was something of an Orthodox over-reaction to the co-redemptrix thing. Mother Teresa, I feel certain, generally viewed it in an Orthodox manner. She would in no way support Mary within the godhead.

    The proper Orthodox opposition to the language was that it potentially said too much – there is no need to say this. Of course Mary participates in our salvation (“Most Holy Theotokos save us!) but the redemption language made it sound too much like something else.

    The Pope was wise to ignore the petitions, and I pray that no future Pope accepts it. It will quickly become a stumbling block for the Orthodox.

  108. There were those around at the time who were already taking it to ” Mary is part of the Godhead” level.

  109. I just led a Reader’s Service of the Parakesis to the Theotokos. This is an incredible service in which you can experience the wonderful poetry of our liturgies, the reverence to and the proper theology of the most Holy Mother of God, the power of her femininity, and the joy of her saving grace.
    searching for salvation, I have sought refuge in thee;
    O Mother of the Word, and ever Virgin,
    from all distresses and dangers deliver me.
    Most Holy Theotokos save us!”
    (from the 1st of 9 odes in the Canon of the Theotokos, Service of the Paraklesis)

  110. Sorry, a portion of the text got left out when I copied this to the comments box.

    I just led a Reader’s Service of the Parakesis to the Theotokos. This is an incredible service in which you can experience the wonderful poetry of our liturgies, the reverence to and the proper theology of the most Holy Mother of God, the power of her femininity, and the joy in her saving grace.
    “With my temptations surrounding me,
    searching for salvation, I have sought refuge in you;
    O Mother of the Word, and ever Virgin,
    from all distresses and dangers deliver me.
    Most Holy Theotokos save us!”
    (1st Ode in the Canon of the Theotokos, Service of the Paraklesis)

  111. I think Co-redemtrix declared as an infallible dogma is a horrible idea and the Popes who all know better than to do this will never do it. Like Father Stephen says It potentially says too much. It could easily be misunderstood and to my mind doing something like that borders on Mariolotry. What Mother Teresa said about the incarnation I embrace whole heartedly.

  112. “Most Holy Theotokos save us” get’s a few raised eyebrows from people who don’t understand it

  113. What I don’t understand is why becoming Orthodox can’t exist in a western context. The west has a rich and beautiful liturgical and spiritual heritage, a heritage which in large part precedes the schism. The western liturgy was distinct from the eastern liturgy by the third century — at latest. And what about post-schism saints, which have inspired and enlightened westerners for hundreds of years? Take the stereotypical example: St. Thomas Aquinas, a brilliant and pious soul whose spiritual and intellectual life illumined Europe for a millennium. (And, I should add, a man who learned from Greek and Latin alike — next to St. Augustine, he was most fond of St. John Chrysostom, St. Dionysius, and St. John Damascene.) Is he simply to be ignored? What of his wonderful and glorious Corpus Christi office*? What of his stunning eucharistic hymns? Are these lush spiritual feasts, which satisfied countless generations, to be thrown into the rubbish bin? I, for one, cannot fathom abandoning the faith of my fathers. There can be no unity if it means such destruction. I desire communion between east and west more than anything, but it cannot come at the price of functionally anathematizing the entire post-schism church — east or west. As everyone acknowledges, only the Spirit can resolve our dilemma.


  114. That said, I can’t deny the charges lodged against the Roman Church by Father Stephen and others: We are in the midst of a profound identity crisis. Instead of growing closer to our eastern brethren, we are aping the worst aspects of Protestantism. The strength and orthodoxy of Blessed John Paul II and Benedict XVI have managed to hold the Church together, but I fear that any decentralization (as envisioned by Francis) will embolden the national bishops conferences, which are typically dominated by heterodox bureaucrats. I am most definitely *not* an ultramontanist, but I fear that apart from the direct exertion of strength by the Holy See, many of the “particular churches” will spiral out of control. This is especially the case because, in most places, the liturgy no longer enlightens and teaches. It is banal and humdrum. There is little or no transcendence. There is literally no worship of God. I fear that many eat the Eucharist sacramentally, but not spiritually. Many of the saints have said that in the last days, the Church of Rome will lose the faith entirely. Perhaps we are there. Alas, Babylon …

  115. PJ, in proper context such things could and, IMO, would be addressed in a pastoral manner. There are western-rite liturgies in use in the Orthodox Church, but I don’t know much about them.

    The veneration of the saints can be a sticky issue as it is with us and the non-Chalcedonians.

    Way above either of our pay-grades.

    The authority of the Pope is the thing. Once that issue is resolved, the rest will be a bit easier, possibly.

    I would suggest that the real faith of your fathers, however is not the RCC but the Apostolic faith.

    There, as it is now, a person has to decide which tradition has guarded that faith the best and best embodies it.

    For me, I’ve never had any doubt it is the Orthodox Church.

    I understand it might not be that for everyone.

  116. When one is coming into the Church the Cross is always involved. What that entails is different for each and every person.

    Some cannot give up the Roman understanding of the authority of the Pope and its centrality in the ecclesiology.

    I have a good friend who was a Roman Catholic priest for many years. He is now an Orthodox layman, a fairly recent change. He felt for a long time that the authority of the Pope was the better way of maintaining the Holy Tradition and faithfulness to the Apostolic faith.

    Slowly over time and with much pain and searching, he came to understand that the Orthodox understanding of Holy Tradition with the Divine Liturgy and the other mysteries being central to the life of the Church was more effective.

  117. Yes, but St Augustine (so much earlier before the schism) and St Thomas Aquinas have errors that need correcting. Errors that can lead astray if we are not aware of them being errors.
    Great as they were, they made ‘stochastic’ mistakes; such as saying that the appearances of God in the OT were not the pre-incarnated Uncreated Divine Logos but some created entity (against every single Father’s words and Christ’s [John 5:46, 8:58 etc]), or, connected to this, the notion of “created Energies”, or the notion of the Church being led into progressively deeper understanding (against all the Fathers who believed there is nothing ‘deeper’ than the experience of Pentecost), or, connected to this, the notion that theology is more accessible to erudite philosophers that haven’t had a direct experience of God than to unlettered beholders of God (the prophets, apostles and saints) and this list can go on.
    I am sounding like Romanides but there is an undeniable requirement for this stuff being acknowledged and mended too…

  118. Dino,

    I’m afraid you’re under some misconceptions.

    Firstly, there’s no way to know how St. Thomas, never mind St. Augustine, would have reacted to the Palamite controversy. Given St. Thomas’ deep interest and great respect for the Greeks, he no doubt would have been keenly interested in what he had to say.

    Secondly, as for Old Testament theophanies, both believed that “visible apparitions of the divine persons were … given to the Fathers of the Old Testament” (Summa Theologica, 1-43-7).

    Thirdly, does anyone deny that the Church can grow in its understanding of the sacred mysteries of our faith? Read the trinitarian speculations of Justin and Origen. Then read the trinitarian theology of the Cappadocians. If that isn’t “being led into progressively deeper understanding,” I don’t know what is! (What Pentecost has to do with this, I’m not sure.)

    Fourthly, it is simply strange to claim that St. Augustine and St. Thomas held that “theology is more accessible to erudite philosophers that haven’t had a direct experience of God than to unlettered beholders of God (the prophets, apostles and saints).” Where did you get such an idea?

    Although St. Thomas was, like all men, a product of his circumstances, he did his best to present a truly ecumenical theology, which combined the intellect and the heart of the east and the west. In some parts of the Summa, the Greek fathers outnumber the Latin fathers 2-to-1. It’s no wonder he was received with interest in the Byzantine world.

    But I don’t want to debate St. Thomas, or suchlike. I simply want to say that unity cannot mean pretending that nothing happened after 1054.

  119. PJ,
    give it a little more though for a second please…
    Augustin’s sincerity and greatness is undeniable, but this does not mean that he doesn’t erroneously plant the seeds that later became the Palamite controversy. The “γινόμενα” and “απογινόμενα” of Barlaam’s heresy did in fact first appear in a certain form in Augistin’s (Books II and III) of De Trinitate. There, in contradiction to all the Fathers and the Ecumenical councils, he put forward the notion that the Old Testament and the prophets (and even the apostles) did not see anything uncreated except by means of creatures which ‘God brings into existence to be seen and heard and which He then passes back out of existence’ once their mission is accomplished. He includes the revelation of the Logos as ‘Angel of the Lord’ Who appeared to Moses in the burning bush and Who is considered uncreated (even by the Jews and, of course) by the Fathers of the Ecumenical Councils. Even an unlettered Orthodox who looks at an icon of Christ saying «Ο ΩΝ» senses that it is the uncreated Second Person of the Trinity appearing to Moses as I AM («Ο ΩΝ»)…

    Unfortunately, Thomas Aquinas (whose equal sincerity is obvious – not denying that at all- when he says that: “Many things which sound well enough in Greek do not perhaps sound well in Latin. Hence, Latins and Greeks professing the same faith do so using different words.”) had been interpreting Augustine and other scholastic theologians… Scholastic means first and foremost ‘stochastic’ (philosophising rationally to a far greater degree than experiencing first hand) and hence, believes in a progressive rationally deepened knowledge ‘about’ God, rather than ‘of’ God face to face.

    Greek Patristic Theology never relied on the idea that better wording and especially better rationalization makes for deeper knowledge of God. The improvement in terminology of dogma comes about due to various heretical misunderstandings requiring these clarifications. However, this does NOT mean that the direct knowledge of God is deepened in any way (this is what I mean by Pentecost as a an example of the deepest knowledge of the Uncreated God by His saints, even if this is not formulated that clearly in created words at the time and many more centuries pass for the terminology to be honed). So in this sense there is no “being led into progressively deeper understanding”. This is what scholasticism might erroneously think, however, this (essentially gnostic) notion of rational betterment of one’s knowledge is at odds with the true, first-hand, experiential knowledge of God that the saints (the true verifiers of the Ecumenical councils’ terms)…

  120. PJ,
    A brief couple of points. You are right – things after the Schism have to be taken into account.

    Notes on Orthodox thoughts: Much of contemporary Orthodox thought grows out of the relatively recent process of “recovering” Orthodox theology. It is a recovery from the domination by non-Orthodox materials in formal Orthodox theology for a season. Thus Lutheran and Catholic thought had far too much sway in the seminaries in Russia for better than a century (this began to change some just before the Revolution). Catholic thought had a fairly dominant position within Orthodox schools in Greece, as recently as the 1950’s. Thus, there is a certain “reactionary” quality to a lot of contemporary Orthodox thought. It is natural and proper and part of a process that must finish its course. It has been a tremendous benefit, interestingly, to the non-Orthodox in that it has helped others “hear” a voice that was in danger of being smothered.

    This process often adds a strident tone to Orthodox thought, that is understandable, but easily over-played. I overplay it far too often here on the blog, but tend to do so in an effort to press for clarity about Orthodox thought.

    Having said that: There are two ways to view Aquinas, Augustine, and the Catholic and Western post-Schism world. The first is to critique (which I just described), the second is to engage. Aquinas under an Eastern critique looks like one thing, Aquinas engaged by an Eastern “mind” is something else. The latter is a reading in which commonalities are sought and explored.

    This happens (there was a major conference a year or so ago in which the place of Augustine in Orthodoxy was the topic). It will continue to happen. But as it happens, what will emerge is not Aquinas (for example) as he stands removed from Orthodoxy, but as he would be when engaged. And, I would think, the two would look quite different.

    I did some Thomist study under Hauerwas at Duke – particularly in theological ethics. It is not off my radar screen.

    We both agree about the present liturgical state of Catholicism and its incipient weakening of the Church. Thomas has almost no place in contemporary American Catholicism as far as I can see. The Western liturgical tradition has now been moth-balled as an antique, the present Rite resembling it only in outline form, and that just barely. The fullness of liturgical life – as continues in Orthodoxy as normative (the hours, the horologion, menaion, etc.), are only maintained in a few contemplative monasteries and have become foreign both to parishioners and priests.

    The West has lost touch with “the West.” There is no so much a split today between East and West, as there is between Modernity and everything else. It is the embrace of modernity within Catholicism and Protestantism that concern me far more than any of the classical debates. Those debates are indeed able to be resolved. But modernity is a Trojan Horse, anti-human, poisonous and soul-destroying.

  121. Father,

    I wouldn’t go quite so far as you in describing the Catholic liturgical life, even in America. It is not entirely decrepit, not yet. There are many parishes where the liturgical life is vibrant and traditional. And these parishes tend to attract young folks. Like me and my wife — and our baby! Yes, that’s right, my wife is pregnant! Little Augustine is on the way…

    That said, there is widespread chaos and destruction. I would like to see the Orthodox *creatively and charitably engage* the west, embracing and revitalizing what is good and true and beautiful in Latin Christianity. Instead, I often see a tendency to reject Latin Christianity as a sort of counterfeit. It isn’t counterfeit, it is simply different. There is an acceptable amount of diversity in unity.

    Ultimately, I agree with you: it’s modernity vs. everything else. And that’s where the Orthodox witness comes in.

  122. I was hoping that Pope Benedict, with his patristic orientation and incisive critique of modernity, would inaugurate a new age in the Church, but now I’m not so sure…

  123. Fr. Stephen,

    I am confused about your comments on Catholic liturgical life. Though I don’t doubt there are exceptions, we have a rich and beautiful liturgy. Also, the hours are not lost outside the monastery – our priests pray them as do some of the laity (though we lay folk may only do part of it because of the time demands of a life in the world).

    I do not doubt that the Orthodox could further enrich our liturgical life and spirituality in general. That is part of the reason I would like to see us draw closer rather than farther apart.

  124. Dino,

    You might appreciate a book entitled “St Thomas Aquinas: Spiritual Master,” especially Volume 2. Fr. Jean-Pierre Torrell writes of St. Thomas, “[His] dilemma consisted in fully receiving the orientation of the Latin tradition … allowing a certain knowledge of the divine essence, without falling into the naive illusion of exhaustive knowledge. At the same time, Thomas has to accept the Greek legacy, a deep religious respect and transcendence, without renouncing the hope, nourished by Scripture, of a truly face-to-face vision. On the one hand lay the risk of a blasphemous pretension to subordinate the secret of God to the grasp of man. On the other hand, the risk was to succumb to agnosticism before an impersonal and unattainable transcendence and to deprive the Christian of the stimulus of the final encounter, where hope will find the fulfillment of its infinite desire.”

    St. Thomas has been greatly misunderstood, east and west. Case in point: Fr. Torrell notes that St. Thomas’ famous “Five Proofs” are actually a “confession of humility,” for he assumes that God is so radically Other that “in itself God’s existence is evident, but not for us.” And furthermore, all of the proofs are rooted in the Divine Name revealed to Moses. Reason is used to assist, rather than establish, faith. Fr. Torrell also does a masterful job of demonstrating St. Thomas’ appropriation of the eastern via negativa, especially from St. Dionysius and St. John Damascene.

    Again, I don’t mean to get wrapped up in St. Thomas, but it’s a good example of where the Catholic and Orthodox traditions might have much more in common than is sometimes assumed.

  125. Fr. Stephen, I hope you will permit me to share some things encountered in my recent reading, and be so kind as to comment upon them.

    When Meletios as Patriarch of Alexandria wrote to Cosmo, Archbishop of Canterbury on the Feast of Christ’s Nativity, 1930, informing him that “the Church of Alexandria withdraws its precautionary negative to the acceptance of the validity of Anglican Ordinations, and, adhering to the decision of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, of July 28, 1922, pronounces that if priests, ordained by Anglican Bishops, accede to Orthodoxy, they should not be re-ordained, as persons baptized by Anglicans are not rebaptized”, he had, as Ecumenical Patriarch, already heard, seven years and nine months earlier, from Cyril, Archbishop of Cyprus writing on 20 March 1923 in the name of his Synod that the autocephalous Church of Cyprus under his presidency judged that “there is no obstacle to the recognition by the Orthodox Church of the validity of Anglican Ordinations” and that Anglican clerics coming “into the bosom of the Orthodox Church” should be “received without reordination”, adding “excluding intercommunio (sacramental union), by which one might receive the sacraments indiscriminately at the hands of an Anglican, even one holding the Orthodox dogma, until the dogmatic unity of the two Churches, Orthodox and Anglican, is attained.”

    Here, we see three autocephalous Orthodox Churches (to which, indeed, the Patriarchate of Jerusalem had already been added as of 12 March 1923, and the Rumanian Orthodox Church was later added, in 1936), adding to their recognition of the validity of Anglican baptism as the One Baptism into the One Church their recognition of Anglican Orders and Ordination “because [in the words of Damianos Patriarch of Jerusalem] there exist all the elements which are considered necessary from an Orthodox point of view for the recognition of the grace of the Holy Orders from Apostolic Succession.” Patriarch Cyril, however, specifies that this excludes “intercommunio […] until the dogmatic unity of the two Churches, Orthodox and Anglican, is attained.” Because they are not one in “dogmatic unity” the Cup is not shared.

    I understand, however, that in many cases a sort of ‘economics of the Cup’ followed these recognitions, with Orthodox hierarchs granting Orthodox faithful permission to receive the Body and Blood in Anglican Celebrations.

    Do you know if this Orthodox Ecclesiastical recognition of Anglican Orders and hierarchical acceptance of Anglican Eucharistic hospitality lasted until the American Episcopal and Canadian Anglican decisions in favor of the ‘ordination of women’ in 1976?

  126. David,
    The recognition of Anglican orders seems to have been short-lived, and not universally accepted. I do not know the dates of when it any recognition ceased. I do know that it was not in place in the 70’s when ECUSA and Canada began ordaining women. It was recognized long before then that the conversations that led to such recognitions were largely misleading – that the latitude of accepted doctrinal discipline was well beyond what had been represented by those speaking on behalf of Anglicanism. Not only that, but the very understanding of holy orders was far less universal within Anglicanism itself.

    The Eucharistic hospitality began to disappear in the 60’s and 70’s. In a sense, the more clearly Anglicanism revealed itself to be a liturgical but Protestant Church, generally liberal in every respect, it was seen as simply as a spiritually dangerous place for any Orthodox believer. It also has to be said that the Orthodox attitude towards ecumenical conversation, which was probably at a high point in the first half of the 20th century, has shifted quite decidedly probably from the 60’s forward. The word “ecumenism” is now an insult hurled at other Orthodox – more or less equivalent to phrases like, “New World Order” and “Globalism.”

  127. PJ,
    a key problem with Aquinas, exactly as with Augustin and Barlaam is the weak or non-existent differentiation between God’s Uncreated (and uncommunicated for the Fathers) nature/substance (‘Ουσία’) and His Uncreated (but communicated) Energies… This is key. It is partly the reason that led to ‘Filioque’ and to the ‘created energies’ and to many other issues…
    Therefore all three of them see ‘made’ (“γινόμενα”) and ‘unmade’ (“απογινόμενα”) entities in the Holy Spirit’s appearance as ‘like a dove’ or as ‘like tongues of fire’ or in the appearances of Christ in the OT…
    The Fathers on the other hand (Augustin’s teacher -St Ambrose- is extremely clear and polemical on the OT appearances of the Uncreated Logos for instance) state unequivocally that all these appearances are communications of God’s Uncreated Glory/Energies to man.

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